Recently, I moderated a panel discussion about cell and gene therapy at the Columbus Metropolitan Club (video). The panelists’ insights were as profound as you might imagine, but one comment in particular has stayed with me since the event:  “The opportunity is so vast. The sky’s the limit.”

When she said this, Dr. Samantha Jaglowski, Medical Director of the Blood and Marrow Transplant Program at The James Comprehensive Cancer Center at The Ohio State University, was imagining a world in which her patients in Ohio didn’t have to travel to Massachusetts or California to find a clinical trial that could treat their rare blood disorders. “In my perfect universe, I would have a product for every patient that came my way,” she told us.

At its most basic, cell therapy involves the transfer of healthy cells into a patient to reduce the impact of a disease. Gene therapy allows researchers to treat genetic disorders by modifying or inserting individual genes.

These treatments are often used to treat the kinds of rare genetic illnesses that have no cures. As I learned at the CMC event, we know of more than 7,000 of these rare diseases; 90% don’t yet have treatments. That gap is partially related to funding for research. But it’s also connected with manufacturing and logistics.

And while Dr. Jaglowski was talking about the possibilities these new therapies offered her patients, I couldn’t help but think about the opportunity we have with our bioscience ecosystem in Ohio.

Innovation occurs in an ecosystem that encourages it. It takes forward-thinking leaders and investors who bring resources to the table. It takes curious, brilliant scientists working at the bench to make discoveries and prove them, again and again. It takes efficient manufacturing processes. It takes robust logistics that bring treatments to patients.

We are gathering all of this in Ohio, from medical devices and pharmaceuticals to agricultural biotechnology and digital health, and our state’s biotech and life sciences industry is growing – fast. Ohio bioscience companies attracted $3.3 billion in funding in 2020. Ohio also is tied for fourth among states in the U.S. in the number of identified gene therapy startups and companies. That means economic growth, of course, but it also means hope for patients and families facing diseases that need better treatments.

Partnerships build the ecosystem between academia and industry, not only for research and bringing bench findings to the greater world and the market but also for talent and workforce pipeline development. It is all connected.

As Tim Miller, Ph.D., Co-Founder, President and CEO of Forge Biologics, a gene therapy company in Grove City, said at the event: “Something developed here in Ohio could be beneficial to the world.”

It takes a strong ecosystem to bring those treatments to bear. And building that ecosystem is exactly what BioOhio and our members do. BioOhio creates the partnerships that encourage development. Our members see the opportunity that exists when we work together, and we have the foundation and history to create and utilize these strong partnerships.

I’ve seen innovations happening with BioOhio members across the state, and I’m excited about what’s to come for our state and for the people we serve.

The sky’s the limit.

Eddie Pauline
President & CEO