26 Sep First Steps – New Bio Column Premiers

amritha appaswamiHealthcare Journal of New Orleans debuts a new column on Bio by NOLABA’s Amritha Appaswami, Director of Business Development, Bio & Health Services Innovation. In this column, Amritha explains NOLABA’s approach to Bio and the value this industry offers the New Orleans economy.

Healthcare Journal of New Orleans

Amritha Appaswami

In this inaugural column, I’d like to introduce this series and myself. I’m delighted to have recently joined the New Orleans Business Alliance (NOLABA) as its first director of business development for bioinnovation and health services innovation (what we refer to as “BIO”). My role is to seek ways to build a robust bioinnovation and health service innovation ecosystem that serves as a major economic driver for Orleans Parish and the entire metro area.

At a personal level, after living in London, Amsterdam, San Francisco and Minneapolis upon leaving my native India, I am here in New Orleans because I married a New Orleanian who is a physician here. I’m excited to be helping shape BIO into a thriving industry cluster.

New Orleans Business Alliance New Orleans, LA 9.6.16

Amritha Appaswami

First, a point of clarification: What is NOLABA? NOLABA is the public-private economic development organization focused on growing the New Orleans economy. We are a public-private partnership between city government and the business community. Our goal is creating a diverse, thriving New Orleans economy, which we work to attain by attracting new business investment and by helping create an ecosystem in which local businesses can prosper. The CEOs of LCMC Health and innovationOchsner, Greg Feirn and Aimee Quirk, number among our 17 board members.

Why BioInnovation & Health Services

Why BIO? As many of you know, in 2013, as the result of intense collaboration with and input from the business community, NOLABA developed a five-year economic strategic plan for New Orleans, ProsperityNOLA. Five target industry clusters (i.e., groups of interrelated and interdependent industries or sectors) were identified: bioinnovation and health services among them.

The rationale behind our focus on BIO derives from a fairly straightforward calculus.

While perhaps less understood than other areas in which New Orleans has a recognizable brand, bioinnovation and health service innovation are in the city’s DNA. Dr. Michael DeBakey was educated at Tulane. Xavier has educated generations of pharmacists and pre-med students. We are one of only fifteen U.S. cities with two medical schools. Birmingham cannot claim that, nor can Austin or Memphis.

Dedicated intentional focus on bioinnovation and health service innovation satisfies local needs and makes the city more attractive to outside investment and talent.

Further, BIO is relatively labor-intensive, providing employment opportunities at every point on the educational spectrum, from high school graduates to post-doctoral fellows. As evidenced by the tremendous physical buildings throughout our city, we have seen unprecedented state and local investment in public Bio-related infrastructure assets (e.g. Louisiana Cancer Research Center (LCRC), New Orleans BioInnovation Center (NOBIC), New Orleans East Hospital, University Medical Center). One reason that I am here is to join at the elbow with these organizations and others to fully leverage this potentially transformative economic opportunity in our city.

BIO offers multiple points of entry and influence on the local economy – be it through direct hiring at local hospital and clinics; commercialization of clinical research at higher education institutions and teaching hospitals; entrepreneurship based on commercialization; or procurement contracts among hospitals, life science-related companies, and other locally owned businesses. All of these can boost local prosperity in myriad ways.

The economic development process

None of these things happens independently of the others. Nor do they happen solely through NOLABA’s efforts. They require cultivation of a pipeline of business investment prospects; coordination with our partners in City Hall, Louisiana Economic Development, GNO Inc., NOBIC, LCRC, and the hospital systems throughout the parish and region; maximizing state and municipal incentives to responsibly benefit New Orleanians and businesses interested in moving or expanding here; and, active, ongoing conversations with members of the business community.

We also rely on industry relationships and expertise to meet prospects. For that reason we regularly attend industry conferences and events to extend our network and tell the New Orleans economic development story. For example, this year our President and CEO, Quentin L. Messer, Jr. attended MedCity Invest. At MedCity, we exposed digital health and healthcare IT companies from across the country to New Orleans’ BIO heritage and to one of the most aggressive digital media and software development incentives in North America. This incentive enables companies in the personalized medicine, telemedicine and other software intensive parts of BIO to reduce the burn rate they experience in the labor expense category. This is a competitive advantage that NOLABA will be marketing more aggressively.

Identifying our best bets

While we cannot disclose the actual companies we’ll be pursuing or with whom we’re in conversations – many require us to keep proprietary information about their growth plans confidential before a conversation even begins – in the next column, I’ll talk more about what kinds of companies may offer the best fit for the New Orleans BIO landscape and why. I’ll also detail how you can help.

This column is only the start of my engagement with my new BIO ecosystem. There is a lot for me to learn and I hope to meet with as many of you as I can to become more integrated into the BIO community here. Ecosystem development is critically important to NOLABA’s aspirations, so please do not hesitate to reach out to me at aappaswami@nolaba.org if there are opportunities where I can share in person what we are doing. Together, we will build upon New Orleans’ proud and often underappreciated history in BIO.

Read the published column here on pages 54-55.