How do you create a leading life science hub in Monroe? Start at the University of Louisiana at Monroe (ULM), which houses the state’s only publicly supported comprehensive center for pharmaceutical education, research and service. Next, add the newest campus of Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine (VCOM), one of the fastest-growing medical schools in the country. Finally, establish the Monroe Biomedical Research and Innovation Park (BRIP), providing new and emerging biotech and biotech-compatible businesses with support to help through start-up phases and increase their likelihood of success.
BRIP is expected to propel Monroe from an emerging hub to a leading life sciences center, accelerating the recruitment of larger companies to the region by leveraging access to and resources from the ULM College of Pharmacy, VCOM (pictured at left) and other assets in the region.
Construction of the facility’s 60,000 square feet of office space, laboratories and research environments is projected to be complete in 2025. Once operational, BRIP will provide a range of administrative and business development services, support that will help life science companies reduce operating expenses, develop new business relationships and secure investment capital.
BRIP will also provide VCOM and ULM with a new venue to collaborate and expand training and research to develop medications, treatments and future generations of practitioners. These advances, and the biomedical breakthroughs that BRIP-based companies create, will serve to improve Louisiana’s health care, rural clinical care and public health initiatives.
The new research park is designed to generate immediate, impactful economic growth driven by the launch of new life science start-ups. The Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine, which enrolled its first students in 2020, intensifies the economic boost. The direct and indirect economic impact of the medical school’s startup phase has been estimated at more than $60 million.
But the biggest economic and societal benefits will accrue long-term, as roughly two-thirds of all VCOM graduates practice in medically underserved parishes or counties where primary care is most needed. Each graduate physician who returns to practice in a community with an existing hospital will generate an economic impact of approximately $1 million.
VCOM’s Louisiana campus will enroll about 150 medical students in each class. The school will eventually have a total student body of 600, with the first physicians graduating in 2024. To whatever extent graduates stay in Louisiana, the economic impact will be enormous.
Organizers expect BRIP will be integral to the vision of ULM/VCOM and the economic development of the region. BRIP’s goals include facilitating technology transfer and research commercialization by the faculty and researchers at area universities and colleges. This initiative adheres to Louisiana Economic Development’s mission of leveraging the investments in universities, research institutions and clinical operations into the development of a knowledge-based economy in the region.
“It’s a way to connect our graduates coming out of ULM who may also be entrepreneurial with a place that they can open their business they have researched on at the pharmacy,” Monroe Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Sue Nicholson said. “There are a lot of symbiotic relationships.”
Tech transfer is one of the keys to building a robust, knowledge-based economy.
BRIP organizers have already begun working on agreements and partnerships with Louisiana Delta Community College, ULM, ULM Small Business Development Center, Louisiana Tech, LSU and the ULM College of Business. The relationships with the schools will provide interns, business counselors and student group projects for park clients.
Many of these potential partners are already pushing ahead with efforts to develop the knowledge-based economy. For example, Louisiana Tech has created an Enterprise Campus, designed to foster collaboration and share access to research facilities for its tenants. Louisiana Delta Community College is the host for the state Small Business Development Center’s 10-location network. ULM College of Pharmacy enables faculty to transfer ideas from the university to the private sector. Those firms will get a leg up by developing and growing as a part of BRIP.