Innovation at the Forefront of PHX East Valley

Algae technology. Eye tracking. Next gen pharma. Stem cell therapies.

Biotech and healthcare innovations that will make for a better tomorrow are already hard at work today in the PHX East Valley. Global powerhouses, established innovators and scrappy startups are all developing and growing innovations that are having an impact nationally and around the world.

It’s no surprise.

Cities in the PHX East Valley region have been putting innovation at the forefront for more than 100 years and they are now helping shape the future. In fact, the region boasts the highest concentration of healthcare, bioscience and technology, research, and medical devices/equipment in Arizona.

On any given day in the region, a familiar scene plays out like this: A scientist in Chandler hones regenerative treatments used by veterinarians across the country to help injured horses and dogs. Researchers in Mesa focus on glucose monitoring tech that improves diabetes management. And in Gilbert, world-renowned cancer researchers target ground-breaking oncology clinical trials.

In the near future, the city of Tempe will round out this picture with a 20-acre Bioscience and Technology Campus. Called the I.D.E.A. campus, it will fuel the 15,000 tech-related jobs currently in the city.

The continued growth of the bioscience and healthcare sector in the PHX East Valley region is vital to the state’s overall economic growth and future. Arizona’s bioscience industry has made notable gains in recent years, and the state is seeing a strong increase in venture capital investments in bioscience-related categories, which lead to employment growth, research and development, and a patent pipeline, according to the Arizona Bioindustry Association.

Against that backdrop, here’s a look at three companies in the PHX East Valley that are helping drive innovation.

Stem Cell Solutions

The power to save lives. That’s the force behind Celebration Stem Cell Centre, whose operations include public and private cord blood banking.

Opened in 2010, the Gilbert center was the first facility in Arizona to collaborate with hospitals to process and bank umbilical cord blood donations. It has thrived in the PHX East Valley, serving families throughout the state.

“Our company is growing and the Stem Cell industry is advancing rapidly,” said President Sherry Lund. “Saving lives and helping people have a better quality of life is what we do.”

Private cord blood samples banked by parents can be used to treat their new baby or a family member if needed. Currently, more than 100 diseases can be treated with cord blood and private samples can also be used for regenerative therapies, Lund said. Cord blood samples that arendonated by parents and qualify for transplantation, to help patients in need, are registered with national and worldwide marrow donor programs.

The PHX East Valley has been the ideal fit for the company, from supportive government officials with the town of Gilbert to the region’s established medical community to the easy access to hotels and amenities for out-town business partners.

“This area is a perfect location for anyone looking to start a company or relocate,” Lund said.

Simulation Central

Every day, medical professionals are hard at work at the Banner Simulation Medical Center, managing an emergency situation one minute and caring for a patient on the operating table the next minute. The “work” is actually critical training at the virtual hospital in Mesa, where physicians and nurses face scores of real-world scenarios.

Banner’s 55,000 square-foot center is one of the largest of its kind in the world, and opened in 2009. With computerized mannequins as patients, the center offers many of the features found in a hospital: an intensive care unit, emergency department, medical surgical unit, neonatal care center, and two operating rooms with virtual-operation capabilities.

Simulation is a standard today for medical and nursing education, with patient safety at the core of this innovation, said Karen Josey, senior director of simulation for Banner Health. “This means using technology such as virtual reality in delivering just-in- time education efficiently,” she said. “It is training healthcare providers for the future and to be prepared at any moment to care for our patients.”

Next Gen Digital Health

Want to focus more? Stress less? Sleep better?

Look no farther than Mesa-based Neuro Therapeutics, a new digital health startup focused on boosting brain health. When patients improve and train certain brain functions, they can experience dramatic results in day-to- day living, said Leslie Sherlin, Neuro Therapeutics’ chief executive officer, chief science officer and founder.

The company’s Versus brain sensing device allows health and wellness providers to deliver brain exercises through a sleek headset.

The device features a multi-sensor platform that collects and analyzes EEG signals. This data is used to assess brain performance and create exercises tailored to the user, whether a CEO or student or stay-at- home parent.

Neuro Therapeutics is an offshoot of another California-based company, and Sherlin said the PHX East Valley offers a “San Francisco-esque” feel. He sees a synergy between startups here and a deepening culture of innovation. He also sees opportunities for collaboration, which seem to come easier here as companies ask, “How can we have this reciprocal investment in each other?”

“That happens so quickly here,” Sherlin said. While established innovation hubs like New York City or the Bay Area may have the breadth of resources for entrepreneurs and startups, the PHX East Valley area clearly has the depth, Sherlin said.