Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

May 3, 2010


Host: Ted Simons

BioAccel

  |   Video
  • BioAccel is a non-profit organization that’s growing Arizona’s bioscience industry by turning bioscience discoveries into new business opportunities that accelerate commercialization in the life sciences. Learn about BioAccel’s goals and achievements with Chief Executive Officer MaryAnn Guerra and Chief Scientific and Business Officer Ron King.
Guests:
  • MaryAnn Guerra - Chief Executive Officer , BioAccel
  • Ron King - Chief Scientific and Business Officer, BioAccel
Category: Science   |   Keywords: bioscience, BioAccel,

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Scientific discoveries in health care and innovative new products can't provide much public benefit if they never make it to the public. Tonight, we take a look at Bioaccel, a nonprofit that celebrates its one-year anniversary this week. It's dedicated to helping bio-tech companies speed the process of getting their products to market. Companies like Kemeta.

Shane Bravard:
Take the disposable mouthpiece, plug it in there, press the button, blow.

David Majure:
Kemeta is hoping this will revolutionize weight loss.

Shane Bravard:
It tells people they're metabolizing fat.

Woman 1:
You will know if you're burning fat and an indication of your fat burn rate.

Shane Bravard:
It measures acetone and the more acetone you have in your breath, the higher the fat metabolism is.

David Majure:
Kemeta says doctors can use the device to help patients manage weight-related diseases.

Joan Vrtis:
The second application for this is the self-directed dieters or fitness buffs that want to see if they can try this different type of exercise or different diet program to actually see if they're losing weight. Or burning fat. It's really simple. This is the handset. Basically, what to do, you put the mouthpiece into the handset and you hit go and you blow. And in a single breath, within minutes, you will have an indication of whether you're burning fat and your fat burn rate, it links up automatically to our software system. Right now, we have a USB connect but we will have wireless connect in the future.

David Majure:
The software provides a variety of tools to help people manage their weight. You can join with other people that do the gym.

Joan Vrtis:
Join Club Kemeta, the Facebook, if you will, of dieting and exercise. Here we have a tab that will monitor body metrics.

David Majure:
The breath analyzer will eventually go on sale to the public for about $80.

Joan Vrtis:
We know the technology works, we know this device works.

David Majure:
Now the company is trying to show how people will use it before applying for FDA approval that requires clinical study which takes money, money that a nonprofit organization called "Bioaccel" provided.

Joan Vrtis:
Bioaccel has been wonderful. Through Bioaccel's generosity of funding us and the confidence level they've had in us, it has really given Kemeta a boost to bring this closer to market.

Ted Simons:
Indeed. Bioaccel is a nonprofit organization that helps biotech companies like Kemeta accelerate the commercialization of their products. Joining me are Maryann Guerra, Bioaccel's chief executive officer and chairman of the board. And Ron King, chief scientific and business officer for Bioaccel. Good to have you here. Thank you for joining us. We appreciate it.

Maryann Guerra:
Glad to be here.

Ted Simons:
The idea of helping commercialize bioscience research, how do you do it?

Maryann Guerra:
Well, first we have to identify the right technology. So that's the important thing. We're focused on what is the technology that can actually be moved into development and commercialization and create companies here in Arizona. So we try to establish the companies in economically deprived areas, enterprise zones in Arizona. So identify the technology, if it's going through our rigorous review, which Ron has set up a wonderful system, we then fund it through proof concept so that we de-risk the technology. We've now identified, de-risk the technology, make sure it is a viable business, set up the business infrastructure and then hopefully attract downstream funding to make that a sustainable organization.

Ted Simons:
I want to get back to that model in a second, but as far as choosing and kind of going through the process of finding out who fits the profile, who doesn't, give us some examples here. What are you looking for?

Ron King:
We initially fall into three categories of technologies we look at. We look at therapeutics, diagnostics and medical devices. Kemeta you would find in the medical device category. Then once we've identified various technologies, we look at technologies, look at over 300 some-odd technologies across the state of Arizona, then goes through a multistage review process that we have implemented for both technical feasibility and then also business feasibility, so we look at it from a complete perspective of the end game, the technology and how it will get into the marketplace.

Ted Simons:
Does this mean you're dealing with mostly late-stage research?

Ron King:
This would be late-stage research, so it is essentially what I call the -- we deal with things after the Ah-ha moment or the eureka moment, from that point on, so that's our space.

Ted Simons:
I read a little bit about the company in a sense what you're looking to do is to diversify the portfolio of firms, like you would do a diversification of stock portfolios. Tell us about that.

Maryann Guerra:
We want to make sure that we identify companies that can get into the market quickly. So one, we want to prove the model that if we, as Bioaccel, can step in and help accelerate that process, there is economic benefit to Arizona. So therapeutics take a long time to develop so the time line is over 12, 15 years, so you don't want to have everything in your therapeutic. Devices have a much shorter turn around, like Kemeta. I mean, they are now in clinical trials, their device is going to be available. In a year that we've known Kemeta, they're off and running. Diagnostics are somewhere in the middle. So by having a diversified portfolio, we can show success along the way and hopefully have some return on our investments to keep Bioaccel and our programs going.

Ted Simons:
When you're working with these companies, say you're working with my brand new start up, is it everything from paperwork to marketing and all? What is involved here?

Ron King:
We're very hands on. I think that is a critical component to being able to create an environment for these companies to be successful. So yes, and they vary in stage, depending on the company. Kemeta is a little further advanced but literally from the very beginnings of setting up your company, the infrastructure that's needed and then creating an environment of support, a support network that you'll need as you go through your various stages of your company going forward.

Ted Simons:
The idea of a business and philanthropic model combined together, talk to us about this. This sounds fascinating in the sense that you are a nonprofit here but you are accelerating growth, or at least trying to.

Maryann Guerra:
We call it the philanthropic capitalism model, and Michael Bishop, there is a book about it and you can read about it, but how do we use philanthropy to drive economic development or do disruptive market changes that maybe the market won't naturally do. This is also an area of high risk, so when you take an aha moment of discovery, and say we want to create a commercial product, there is a lot of work between those two points. Very high risk. Many times that discovery, while it is a great scientific achievement, isn't really going to be a viable commercial product for many different reasons. Some of that review process that Ron talked about identifies those technologies that can be validated and that we can then fund. Venture capital doesn't want to put their money there, it is so high risk. So how are we going to fund that? The SBIR program is post that, so philanthropy in this space is willing to take the risk, de-risk the technology, de-risk the business by what Ron said about helping those businesses be successful, and therefore, making this more attractive to the venture world.

Ted Simons:
And Ron, does being a nonprofit help in the sense that maybe you might seem a little safer?

Ron King:
Absolutely. We, I call it the honest broker, it's very important to be able to, especially what we're trying to do on a statewide basis with multiple institutions, to be seen as not predatory, as someone who is trying to complement, trying to assist and trying to help, I think the best way to put it is, you know, you've heard it takes a village to raise a child, well, it takes a community to build a bioscience industry, and we have to be members of that community and be seen to be supportive neighbors.

Ted Simons:
I know you both came from TGen and I know ASU has the bioscience center and there seems like things are happening. Are things happening?

Ron King:
Lots of things are happening. Actually, to take you back, the road map of 2009 focused on building research infrastructure and what the results of that is what you're seeing now with TGen, Bio Design, Bio Five down in Tucson. There is over $450 million invested in that over the last seven years, and they've done what they're charged to do, they're developing new technologies that now need to be commercialized.

Ted Simons:
And needing to be commercialized means needing to find some venture capitalism. I know it is difficult out there. How difficult is it?

Maryann Guerra:
Well, it is the worse of times when you look around the financial situation. Arizona is facing its own financial crisis, as well, so, you know, it is getting out there, educating the community about -- they've already invested in the biosciences, as Ron said. The Flynn Foundation has reported that, say he's got this investment, now how do we leverage that investment and capitalize on that? And getting everybody to understand that it's not a natural process to commercialization, it requires different skill sets, it -- you know, you're a scientist in an academic lab, you may not a business person and may not want to be, so how do we integrate all that and make the community understand you've got to invest in this area of philanthro-capitalism. We have this infrastructure, now let's go out, review technologies. We looked at 300. There is a lot of good technologies there. We are looking for a small slice of commercial so we've just got to educate more and get out there more and I think once we -- I don't think, Ron, that we've been in a meeting that we sat down with the business community and when we explain it, it is a very interesting outcome. They say, that makes incredible sense, you de-risk our investment so they've actually turned to us and said, do you have a venture fund we could belong to? Now, we're not into creating the venture fund because we want to do the philanthropy, but we're working with local investment groups and local investors saying, maybe we should create this fund and a new fund that actually puts money back into Bioaccel to fund the program. So we're working on that concept, as well.

Ted Simons:
One last question. Is it tough for Arizona because we are such a new player in this field?

Ron King:
It is, but I'm a glass half full type of person and that presents opportunity. The opportunity being that we don't have a lot of the legacies we have in Boston, San Francisco, the bay area, so that means we have opportunity to actually do some unique and innovative things.

Ted Simons:
All right, very good. Stop it right there. Good discussion. Thank you for joining us. We appreciate it.

Maryann Guerra:
Thank you.

Political Impact of SB 1070

  |   Video
  • ASU Professor Emeritus Bruce Merrill, an expert in political behavior, shares his views on how Arizona’s tough new immigration law could impact the governor’s race and other elections.
Guests:
  • Bruce Merrill, ASU Professer Emeritus
Category: Immigration   |   Keywords: sb 1070, immigration, ASU,

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Tonight on "Horizon," The political impact of Arizona's new immigration law. And turning scientific ideas into commercial products. That's coming up next on "Horizon." Good evening and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio will not make a run for governor. Arpaio made the announcement today. He says he plans to complete the final two years of his term as sheriff. Arpaio would have had to resign in order to run for governor, which means that his successor would've been named by the county board of supervisors. Arpaio's been feuding with the board for several years, and he says that indeed was something that weighed into his decision. Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon will not file a lawsuit on behalf of the city challenging the state's new immigration law. The mayor planned to file suit on his own after the city council refused to support such a court action. But today, the city attorney released a statement saying the mayor doesn't have the authority to do that either. Gordon now says he will join other mayors in a legal action that won't use city funds. When Governor Jan Brewer signed senate bill 1070 into law, she touched off a national debate on immigration reform. The new law has been praised and protested, but what kind of impact will it have on upcoming elections? Earlier today, I talked with ASU political scientist, Bruce Merrill. Bruce, thank you for joining us, we appreciate it.

Bruce Merrill:
Glad to be here.

Ted Simons:
Let’s get right to it. Political impact of SB 1070, ure politics. What do you see?

Bruce Merrill:
Pure politics? It has already had a dramatic effect on the governor's race in that the governor's popularity according to the recent polls has gone up to 10 to 15 percentage points, so it has certainly helped her in the republican primary.

Ted Simons:
Is that a sustainable bump?

Bruce Merrill:
It really depends, Ted, on the demonstrations against this bill if they get more intense, more dramatic, if there is tear gas, et cetera, and if the media continues to cover them, then the longer that drags out, the more it probably helps her.

Ted Simons:
The idea of republican candidates, specifically, we'll start with republicans in the primary, it sounds as though when you're talking primary it is a more conservative crowd for the republican side, this bill probably helps the conservative candidate.

Bruce Merrill:
Well there is no question about that, but again, the governor by signing this bill has taken some of that initiative away from somebody like Dean Martin, for instance, some of the more conservative candidates in the race. They can't out-conservative her on that particular piece of legislation.

Ted Simons:
Okay. And in general, on the democrat side, not just for governor but for all the races which there are primaries, can a democrat -- in the same way a republican probably can't say, I don't like this bill all that much and maybe do well in a primary, can a democrat say, I kind of like this bill and have any success in the primary?

Bruce Merrill:
It would depend on a few very specific geographical areas but in general, no. Research shows that 75 to 80 percent of all the registered democrats in Arizona are opposed to this bill. And particularly for the governor's race, Terry has the advantage of not having a primary opponent so he doesn't really have to do much of anything on this race and I think in the general election it could actually help him among independents and moderates.

Ted Simons:
Let’s take it to the general election, whether it is Governor Brewer, Dean Martin, any republican candidate against a Terry Goddard. You past the primary, you're now out in the wide open. If you support this bill, does it help or hurt?

Bruce Merrill:
I think it is how they do it. There is no question that 65 to 70 percent of all registered voters in Arizona actually support it. But again, I think it depends on what's happening with this legislation. The demonstrations, the media coverage in the late summer and just before the election.

Ted Simons:
So if there is a court action, which kind of slows things down. If the media loses interest and finds something else to jump on, you're saying this is not as big an impact as it could be?

Bruce Merrill:
That is absolutely correct. And there is other scenarios. What if the courts strike this down? It goes away real quick in the media, it is old news, and I still think the major issue underlying everything with this up-coming election is the economy. And I think that's going to be the major issue, if this dies down.

Ted Simons:
Okay, let's kind of tie it into the economy a little bit here. Does SB 1070, the immigration law, the fact that that is now law and you've got voters out there with that in mind, does that affect the sales tax vote?

Bruce Merrill:
I think that it possibly does. In this sense, that it may energize or maybe make more committed, the conservative that have the highest probability of voting in a special election. Remember, you pointed out correctly Ted, that the people that vote in the primary, and remember you only have a 30, 35 percent turnout, tend to be the more conservative anti¬tax people. But among the people that vote in a special election, it is going to be even a lower turnout which means more of the conservative right wingers and it may be that all this discussion over this illegal immigration bill makes them even more angry and more committed to voting this time. So I might think that it has an impact in the sense that maybe making it more difficult to pass the tax increase.

Ted Simons:
You mentioned independents. Do we know or have an idea, general thought, as to where they fall on the immigration issue in general, and SB 1070?

Bruce Merrill:
I would say that overall they are slightly more in favor of the legislation than against. But keep in mind, the independents, the biggest problem that the candidates are going to have in terms of figuring out the independents is that it's not a homogeneous group, it is about a third independent-leaning democrat, about a third independent-leaning republican, and about a third real independent, and those real independents are more libertarian-type people, really anti¬tax, anti¬government people. So on balance, I think that the independent vote actually will not help, but you know, the interesting thing about independents, Ted, is they don't vote. They don't vote in much more of a percentage than the Hispanic vote in Arizona.

Ted Simons:
So someone who is very proud to say I'm not a party to either party, they don't even bother to vote.

Bruce Merrill:
And they've become independent because they're so alienated by politics that both political parties, the political process, so who are they going to vote for? They're turned off to politics. They're glad to get out and so what they’re doing, they're not going to vote at all.

Ted Simons:
Speaking of folks who traditionally don't vote, it would sound as though republican candidates would be worried about this, democratic candidates would be hopeful for this, and that is the Latino vote with the passage of this law. But historically, the Latino vote hasn't been there.

Bruce Merrill:
Absolutely. The Hispanic vote, if it ever develops the leadership and the potential to mobilize, could control Arizona politics within five or six years, but the problem traditionally and there is a lot of reasons for this, but traditionally the Hispanics do not vote. In the last election, for instance, they were about 20 percent, 22 percent of registered voters and six or seven percent of the turnout. So the problem with Hispanics is they don't vote. They have the potential to influence election, but they have not so far.

Ted Simons:
The national perception of Arizona, a lot of folks are very concerned about that in a variety of ways. Does that impact our elections?

Bruce Merrill:
There's no question. I've been giving a lot of interviews to the national and international press, and the first thing they say to me when they pick up the phone is what in the heck is going on in your state? And in terms of potential impact, not everybody that's going to be viewing this program is as old as I am, but all I say to a lot of people, is remember Evan Mecham. That controversy in the media costs this state hundreds of millions of dollars, probably well over a billion dollars. It lost us the opportunity to bring companies here that were looking at relocating here. And so there is no question that if this issue continues, and intensifies in the media, this could end up hurting the state in terms of its image and the economy significantly.

Ted Simons:
Will voters translate what they perhaps see as a damaged image, will they translate that to votes or are people so locked in these days, if they don't want to come here, there you go?

Bruce Merrill:
They're pretty locked in. Voting is down, and again, one of the independents to try to explain that, Ted, one of the things about independents is that as the independents have left both parties, what has it done? It's left those that are in both parties much more partisan. So that, that's why we have so much incivility right now, so much yelling and screaming, because the people that are left, the independents have fled the scene, and what's happened is the democrats and republicans are left are the pure ideologues and they’re not going to compromise.

Ted Simons:
And come election time, we hear about anti-incumbents fever out there as well, let’s put it all together; do you see Arizona moving differently than the rest of the country, in terms of going a little left or a little right? Does this SB 1070 put us on a different playing field than from the rest of what we see from the country in November?

Bruce Merrill:
Maybe a little bit Ted, but not enough to change the direction the country is headed. We have something called surge and decline in American politics, which means the party that wins the presidency tends to lose seats in the off year election anyways. It’s around 20. So it is no question that the democrats nation wide will lose seats in congress, it is how many are they going to lose. In Arizona, the fact that if the conservatives really come out because of 1070, we may not go quite in the same direction as the country, but I think it's going to depend upon the specific congressional districts. Two particularly, somebody -- well, there is really three that there's district one, there's Harry Mitchell's district and Gabby Giffords' district and all of those districts are pretty marginal. And so 1070, if it really drives conservatives out, could influence all three of those congressional districts.

Ted Simons:
Fascinating stuff. Bruce, always good to see you.

Bruce Merrill:
Good to see you again, Ted.


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