UNM School of Medicine student Kara Leasure
UNM School of Medicine graduate student Kara Leasure studies cell biology. 

Governor Susana Martinez signed legislation Friday creating a new Bioscience Authority, a public-private entity tasked with promoting the growth of New Mexico’s biotechnology industry.

Senate Bill 478 – the Bioscience Development Act – sponsored by Sen. George Muñoz (D-Gallup) and Rep. Larry Larrañaga (R-Albuquerque), passed during the 2017 legislative session. It reflects a close collaboration between state government, research institutions, national laboratories and private industry.

The new authority will make recommendations to the governor, state officials and lawmakers, promote state ties with bioscience industries, promote legislation to help develop those industries, serve as a clearinghouse for bioscience enterprise information, oversee feasibility studies for bioscience projects or programs and recruit businesses to relocate in New Mexico from other states.

The authority will be administratively attached to and affiliated with the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center (HSC). The creation of a bioscience authority was supported by GrowBio, a public-private initiative that in 2016 published a comprehensive study of successful bioscience efforts in other states.

“This is the start of something great for New Mexico,” says Richard S. Larson, MD, PhD, the HSC’s executive vice chancellor, who chaired the planning committee. “I want to acknowledge the hard work of the GrowBio committee in making this happen. We’re grateful to the governor, Senator Muñoz and Representative Larrañaga for their support.”

Dale Dekker, principal of the Dekker/Perrich/Sabatini architecture and planning firm and a member of the GrowBio committee, hailed the bill signing as a major milestone. “It’s a huge leap forward,” Dekker said. “We’ve created a mechanism for the Legislature to build a new $1 billion industry in the state that will employ New Mexicans for generations to come."

Muñoz also hailed the bill as a vital job-creation measure. “This is an historic step in diversifying New Mexico’s economy,” he said. “When you create a new industry using cutting-edge technology that creates jobs – that’s a win for our state.” The legislation creates a 13-member Bioscience Authority board of directors comprising two representatives from the UNM Health Sciences Center, two from New Mexico State University, one from New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, the Secretary for Economic Development (or designee), the executive director of the Spaceport Authority (or designee), and six members of the public who have experience working in bioscience.

Although the bill carries no appropriation, it creates a bioscience development fund within the state treasury. Money in the fund is subject to appropriation by the Legislature. The bill also requires the board to submit a report of its activities to the governor and appropriate interim committees by October 1 of each year.

The GrowBio study reported that the state has about 700 biotech companies employing about 9,300 people, with an estimated total revenue of about $1.2 billion in 2015. But it also found that coordinated policies and incentives to attract investor capital and reduce administrative roadblocks would help to translate biotechnology discoveries made in the state’s universities and national laboratories into new job-creating enterprises.