Joan Koerber-Walker

President & CEO - Arizona Bioindustry Association, Inc. (AZBio)




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Arizona is home to one of the fastest growing life science sectors in the country. The Greater Phoenix Area is at the center of the action and holds the greatest concentration of life science and healthcare innovators in the state. Health innovations are born as discoveries, are shaped, tested, and proven during the development process, and ultimately must be delivered where they are needed. To innovate, we must be able to navigate and complete each phase of the innovator’s journey.

Perspective on Innovation

Innovation is what we get when we are doing something in a new way to make life better. Action and impact are the drivers of innovation. Action moves you forward. Impact drives adoption and greater momentum. Without them, you are left with nothing but what might have been a great idea.

Where we started

Arizona’s Bioscience Cluster was formed by Governor Jane D. Hull in 1997. In 2000, the people of Arizona passed Prop. 301 to fund education with a .6 cent sales tax. This included the Technology Research Initiative Fund or TRIF to invest in innovative projects and talent at the universities. In 2018, TRIF investments passed the $1 billion mark. In 2002, the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) was founded and served as a catalyst for what is today Arizona’s strength in precision medicine and sits at the heart of the Phoenix Biomedical Campus.

In 2003, Arizona committed $500 million in investments into University Research Infrastructure. It would later double down in 2017 with an additional $1 billion commitment. The Arizona Bioindustry Association (AZBio) was also founded in 2003, to serve as the state-wide voice and advocate for Arizona’s healthcare and bioscience science industry and as the nexus that connects and supports Arizona life science innovators.

When we started, the Greater Phoenix region did not have a single medical school. Today, there are four medical schools training tomorrow’s physicians.


In addition to TGen, Greater Phoenix is home to the Barrow Neurological institute, the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute, the HonorHealth Research Institute, the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University, Mayo Clinic’s rapidly expanding research campus, and more. Over 3700 patents in life science related areas were issued to Arizona innovators from 2012 – 2017.


The development stage takes these discoveries and creates the pathway to create a marketable product or service. Arizona innovators are developing new technologies to catch cancer early when we have better odds of beating it and a desperately needed diagnostic for ALS. One team is working on development of a vaccine to prevent all cancers and another on a drug to halt dysplastic cells before they become cancerous.

Companies are developing devices to block pain so that addictive opioids can be avoided while another is developing better forms of drugs that can be used in the case of an overdose.

New devices are in development to keep arteries clear, regulate heartbeats, manage diabetes, and more. The community’s healthcare systems attract a wide range of clinical trials that leverage both our strong base of clinical researchers and our diverse patient population.


Leveraging our strengths in precision medicine, Arizona companies are helping physicians make better decisions based on a patient’s unique genomic profile. Arizona innovators are now delivering the world’s smallest pacemaker to help patients with cardiac disease, an artificial pancreas to help people with diabetes manage their health better, peripheral vascular devices that deliver lifesaving medications, and implantable devices that keep the blood flowing and the heart pumping.


Supporting the Journey

AZBio works to support these innovators by telling their story, connecting them to potential partners, working on programs to support individual companies and the overall ecosystem while advocating to ensure that when the products are ready to be delivered, that patients who need them can get them.

Fueling the innovation engine

While billions of dollars have been invested in fueling the discovery and delivery phases of life science innovation across the community, the region falls short in the availability of risk capital that is essential for accelerating discoveries through the development phase.

This is one of the areas of innovation that AZBio is working on today. Actions include building relationships with family offices and venture capitalists nationally and internationally, bringing them here to see what is happening in our life science innovation sectors, and connecting them with companies.

In addition, in partnership with the Opportunity Through Entrepreneurship Foundation, AZBio has launched a capital campaign to build a $200 million evergreen endowment that will have the capacity to invest $10 million or more per year into early stage life science companies so that they can accelerate their innovation journey.

I had thought the destination was what was important, but it turned out it was the journey.

– Clayton M. Christensen

Why Phoenix?

Phoenix has what innovative life science companies need to grow and succeed. Arizona is business friendly and lacks many of the expensive tax and regulatory burdens found in other states. Our operating cost structure is one of the lowest for a major metro and our excellent quality of life makes it easier to attract and retain the talent you need.

The Future of Innovation

New advances in precision medicine, big data, artificial intelligence, our understanding of the human immune system, and a broad range of medical technologies have the potential to drive new paradigms in the way we detect, diagnose, treat and cure disease. Moving them forward faster will require new and innovative funding models. AZBio is working to develop and deliver these financial innovations, so that more Arizona companies can deliver the lifesaving ones.

Advice & Best Practices

Get Engaged – Few communities are more willing to help you get connected to the partners you need to move your project forward, but if you are not engaged and active in the community, people won’t know what you can offer or how they can help you get what you need.

Aim High – The life science innovator’s journey is not an easy one. If you are going to travel on this path, aim high for maximum impact. You never know what you may find along the way or how many lives you might change for the better when you do.

Company Information

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