The state’s role in helping ARMI succeed

To build a new biotech ecosystem, we must first get our scaffolding in place

Earlier this summer, the Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute officially opened in the Manchester Millyard.

ARMI, also known as BioFabUSA, is one of 14 Manufacturing Innovation Institutes located throughout the country, creating private-public partnerships to accelerate advanced manufacturing in the United States.

ARMI seeks to create a multidisciplinary consortium of private industry, academia, nonprofits and federal, state and local governments to “bridge the gap” between laboratories and the marketplace in the field of regenerative medicine.

If ARMI succeeds, the future of health care will include large-scale fabrication of tissues and organs to be used to restore our wounded soldiers and to improve access for organ transplant patients.

With almost $300 million in private and public funds, and the ingenuity of Dean Kamen, the visionary behind ARMI, this will not only revolutionize the field of regenerative medicine, but will also provide an economic development boost to the greater Manchester area and beyond if it succeeds.

For these reasons, we should all be excited that such an opportunity has arrived in Manchester. Much has been written about how the Millyard is the perfect location for ARMI and a new biotechnology ecosystem due to the city’s history as once the largest textile manufacturing center of the world. There is no doubt that ARMI provides Manchester with the opportunity to again become a leading manufacturing center. However, there is much to be done before the Merrimack Valley becomes the next Silicon Valley. Before this new ecosystem can be built, we first have to get the scaffolding in place.

At ARMI’s kickoff, attendees viewed demonstrations of some of the technology currently being employed in the field. During these demonstrations, the same word was used again and again: scaffolding.

In tissue engineering terms, three-dimensional scaffolds guide the growth of new cells to repair damaged areas in the body. These scaffolds provide an appropriate environment for tissue regeneration. Without them, growth is slower, less stable and less compatible with surrounding environments.

Seeing how integral these scaffolds are to new tissue growth resonated with me because the same can be said for the growth of a new biotechnology ecosystem, with ARMI at its core. To generate a new biotechnology ecosystem in Manchester, we need scaffolds that provide the best possible environment for growth.

How do we do that? First, we must create a steady stream of talent for biotechnology companies. To attract students, our educational institutions need increased funding to ensure that their programs in the core sciences, biomedical engineering and other related disciplines have cutting-edge curricula and facilities. Increased funding will allow institutions to offer internships and additional research grants to their students.

In turn, students will have greater opportunities to develop practical, technical skills before graduation, readying them to enter the workforce immediately with the tools that biotechnology employers need.

Second, we must coordinate local and state laws, regulations and policies, while exercising deliberate community planning strategies, to make New Hampshire even more attractive to both highly skilled workers and employers drawn by the promise of ARMI.

We must make it easier for employers to not only retain existing talent, but to draw talent here. This includes offering affordable housing, excellent childcare and schools, transportation, access to quality health care and a vibrant culture through our natural environment, art, music and theater.

In addition to workforce development efforts, we can use smart legislation and policies to entice ARMI’s members and others to set up their manufacturing facilities in New Hampshire. Tax incentives and credits for facility construction, along with policy incentives that provide manufacturers with stable infrastructure, such as utilities, transportation and communication systems, are all important.

We historically do more with less, but New Hampshire is nimble enough to be creative and find ways to offer these incentives.

Third, we must use a sustained, targeting marketing plan to entice biotechnology companies to relocate or expand here. We have a great story to tell, including our high quality of life, lower cost of living, availability of local suppliers and business affiliates, and our proximity to potential collaborators in the metro Boston area.

Given the promise of a revolutionary industry emerging on our doorstep, every one of us has a stake in seeing it succeed. However, to build a biotechnology ecosystem and to support ARMI in its mission, we have to get all of these scaffolds in place. I know we can do it, and I’m excited to help.

Christina A. Ferrari, an attorney with Bernstein Shur in Manchester, is a former biomedical researcher in the fields of neurosurgery and neuroscience.

Categories: Opinion