What defines the local Cure Corridor? An examination of the burgeoning bio-life sector

Doctors, scientists and healthcare professionals heard the latest numbers on the Scottsdale economy during the Sixth Annual Cure Corridor event. (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

In less than 10 years, a collaborative landscape for health care and bio-science work has emerged out of Arizona’s desert terrain, yielding what is now called the Scottsdale Cure Corridor.

Comprised of companies testing healthcare, creating patents, seeking new patient treatments, the Cure Corridor is a network of companies in close proximity sharing what many say is proprietary information.

The Cure Corridor started out around six years ago as a sprawling area along Shea Boulevard in the city of Scottsdale. It now includes areas throughout the city, stretching into Phoenix to the west and the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community to the east.

While the Cure Corridor isn’t a single physical destination, it speaks to a collaboration of people, businesses and innovations. Education and research, clinical trials, healthcare and bio-life science startups have, since 2013, contributed to $176.4 million in venture capital for Scottsdale healthcare companies.

In the last few years 2,000 bio-science related patents have been awarded to Arizona inventors.

Additionally, more than 18,000 employees are working on innovations in healthcare and bio-sciences, while 34,000 employees are accounted for across the entire healthcare industry in Scottsdale.

In total, more than 50 private companies call Scottsdale home, including HonorHealth, Advanced Genomic Solutions, CVS Health, GlobalMed, SkySong Innovations, Sonoran Biosciences and many more.

“We’ve got a nice inventory of folks in the industry, and they all serve to be ambassadors to promote the idea that within a competitive environment, without any intervention from the city, other than to bring people together — it’s not a meet and greet, it’s to trade ideas — and to see how technological innovations brought forward by a group or a company and how they may play in improving healthcare,” Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane says of the Cure Corridor.

“The quality of it, the delivery of it, and of course the analysis of it — the data analysis of the results.”

The impact the Cure Corridor has on the Valley of the Sun is significant, Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Todd Sanders say.

“It is vital for Phoenix to diversify its economic landscape,” Mr. Sanders says.

“Diversity allows for sustainability. As the fifth largest city in the nation, and Maricopa County ranking as the fastest growing county, we must keep up with our rapid growth. We are well known for thriving business sectors — from health care, to financial services, to construction and more; it is imperative that we offer competitive jobs in a wide array of industries in order to attract and retain top talent in the region.”

From the beginning

Mr. Lane was first elected to city council in 2004. Now in his third term, the mayor takes credit for initiating the idea of the Cure Corridor.

Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane at the recent Cure Corridor event where the municipal figurehead offered an update on the diversification of the local economy through the bio-life sciences. (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

His professional resume includes serving on a number of boards that speak to the well being of the community, and admittedly has a vast interest in technology, even having owned his own computer technology and telecommunications companies, among others.

He represents the city as a member of the Flinn Foundation Arizona Bioscience Roadmap Steering Committee.

About six or seven years ago, he says he started the idea of the Cure Corridor from a very basic element, which included getting together with people in the bio-science, bio-technical, healthcare science and healthcare facilities.

He points to companies such as HonorHealth — which started out as Scottsdale Healthcare — the Mayo Clinic and TGen as companies who have been a part of the initiative from the beginning.

The Cure Corridor, said the mayor, benefits not just Scottsdale , but the entire region, Valley and even the state.

“This is more than a geographic location because there are companies who are just over the border (of Scottsdale),” noted the mayor. “We’re not out trying to bring folks into it from afar, but nevertheless, it’s certainly what you might consider east Phoenix,” Mr. Lane explained.

An important aspect of the Cure Corridor, said the mayor, is that it attracts top talent to the area and strengthens the local job market.

Once here, that talent has a multitude of job opportunities — generally well-paying opportunities — to choose from.

“They know that they have the opportunity to stay here and find employment otherwise,” Mr. Lane said.

For workers in the healthcare profession, employment in Scottsdale is growing at twice the rate of the national average, officials say, and the median income is about $82,000.

When it comes to having an interest in the field of bio-sciences and technology, Mr. Lane says he does have a personal interest in the field, although it was never part of his academic field of study.

Mr. Lane sold his technology companies in the late 1990s. He says his professional journey put him in touch with intersecting different professions.

“It did get me in touch with sort of tying the two together, and how you could improve delivery systems, be more efficient, be more cost effective — which is something everyone’s been concerned about for a long time — if we could get everyone together,” Mr. Lane said.

It’s not easy to bring together those whose business involves technology and science. There’s a tendency, said the mayor, to want to protect and intellectual property and trade secrets.

The Cure Corridor, he said, promotes the sharing of ideas.

From technology to climate

Arizona’s climate, said Mr. Lane, also contributes to the success of the Cure Corridor. Patients have been traveling to Arizona for years to seek medical treatment, recovery and solace.

“This is the place people come to recuperate, and, frankly, sometimes to get over diseases like tuberculosis, just by virtue of climate,” he said. “It’s a better and more therapeutic environment for them. So you have medical vacations or medical tourism, however you want to call that.

“Particularly when Mayo first got here in Scottsdale, people would come from around the world and around the country to seek treatment. They could go to Wisconsin, they could go to Fort Lauderdale, but in my estimation —

I’ve been to both places — I would much rather be here if I had to choose.”

Mr. Lane says the intersection of quality of healthcare, technology, access to services, cost and delivery all contributed to what is now the Cure Corridor.

Boots on the ground

HonorHealth Clinical Research Institute, 10510 N. 92nd St., is a part of HonorHealth, a not-for-profit health system in the Valley. The Research Institute is responsible for conducting clinical research in Scottsdale and the Phoenix metropolitan area.

Chief Operating Officer Kiran Avancha says the work being done at the Scottsdale facility is a one-of-a-kind operation.

“The Cure Corridor brings the biotech and healthcare industries in the Scottsdale area together on to one platform, showcasing and displaying technology, innovation and healthcare delivery that’s happening within the walls of these institutions,” Dr. Avancha said.

“It provides a collaborative platform for colleagues and institutions to share and talk about innovation that’s happening right here in the Valley and showcasing how it has a significant impact globally.”

The facility is well-renowned in the medical field, Dr. Avancha says, noting its work being done in cancer and cardiovascular research.

“We were able to bring in several cures in the cancer arena with new drugs developed. We tend to collaborate with TGen, Mayo, University of Arizona, Arizona State University and other colleagues in the Valley, especially in medical research,” he said.

“If we bring in new technology and novel drugs it attracts patients across the United States, for example, research being done at HonorHealth has patients from all 50 states and over two dozen countries participating in new clinical trials.

“Imagine that happening right here and right now in the backyard of Scottsdale where residents of Scottsdale are having these new cures or potential cures at their disposal; they don’t need to look anywhere else, they can come down the street to 92nd and Shea.”

Dr. Avancha says the locality of what’s being done in the Valley is interesting to him, as other cities in the nation don’t have that type of community setting. He says about 85 percent of cancer care takes place in communities, with only 15 percent of the cancer care occurring in academic cancer centers.

“My goal has always been to bring that cutting edge research and care into the community setting,” he said.

“Having seen the kind of collaborating that happens in Scottsdale, it’s not competition. We were able to see more than a dozen drugs that came into the market because of the work being done here in the Valley, why was this one of the best kept secrets?”

It was the spirit in Scottsdale that Dr. Avancha witnessed that persuaded him to move his family across the country and join HonorHealth.

“This work meant so much to me as it was amazing to see that kind of spirit here at HonorHealth. I’ve seen the care talked about at multiple institutions and all the big names. However, the level of personalized care and cutting-edge research done right here at HonorHealth Research Institute made my decision for me to move here,” he explained.

“I’m totally committed to seeing this area of Scottsdale be an innovator as part of the Cure Corridor. The benefits are felt by our patients locally, the impact of it is very global. Cancer is cancer — it’s effecting everybody.”

Stephanie Domas, vice president of research and development for MedSec, was the keynote speaker at the recent Cure Corridor event. (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

An impact greater than Scottsdale

Tourism is the leading industry for Scottsdale, but Mr. Sanders says some people may be surprised to find the Cure Corridor may soon surpass tourism as the city’s major attraction.

“The Scottsdale Cure Corridor is a health care and bio-science hub that is revolutionizing the health care landscape of the region and driving the local economy,” Mr. Sanders said.

“The businesses and facilities within the corridor are home to a great deal of medical innovation, which is putting Arizona on the map as an industry leader. This collaborative approach to health care makes our region stronger, and provides patients access to cutting-edge technology to improve overall health.”

In operation since 1888, the Greater Phoenix Chamber is Arizona’s largest chamber and leading business organization. Through service to a broad, diverse membership base the chamber steadfastly serves as the voice of business and as a champion of growth.

Mr. Sanders says in Arizona, healthcare is one of the leading industries, and is a targeted industry under the Greater Phoenix Chamber’s business retention and expansion efforts.

“This network of businesses is not only moving the Greater Phoenix region forward, it helped stabilize our economy during the Great Recession. The medical advancements being made are providing new cures and treatments for disease, which certainly makes a huge impact on the lives of Arizonans,” Mr. Sanders said.

“Beyond that, the economic impact to the region cannot be overstated. Bioscience and health care organizations are rapidly expanding, bringing thousands of high-wage jobs to the region. The reach of the corridor expands far beyond Phoenix and Scottsdale — it provides jobs and health care solutions to individuals throughout greater Phoenix.”

Mr. Sanders notes the impact of the Cure Corridor is significant on the Valley.

“Based on what’s already been accomplished by our healthcare workforce collaborative, the Greater Phoenix Chamber has harnessed the collective knowledge and resources of Arizona’s top healthcare leaders to ensure that the entire region is moving forward,” he said.

“Arizona’s health care landscape is nationally recognized and medical tourism continues to expand, furthering the economic impact of this important economic driver.”

A simple mission

About 250 guests recently attended the sixth annual Cure Corridor event. While he’s proud of the turnout the yearly meeting has garnered, Mr. Lane doesn’t want to grow it much more in order to keep its special atmosphere.

Mr. Lane believes other companies, such as technological companies, can find their spot in the Cure Corridor collaboration regardless of whether they’re located in Phoenix or other parts of Scottsdale.

“What we find is there is hardly an area of technology that doesn’t have a prospect of improving some aspect of health care and delivery in that.”

Mr. Lane pointed to the recent Cure Corridor conference in December 2018, the sixth annual event, as an opportunity to provide a casual atmosphere for doctors and scientists to interact. He says he believes this year’s event was one of the most successful meetings to date.

“These are private companies and private individuals, what I like to think, and what the intention was from the beginning, was to give a platform for everybody to get together and know who’s here and then be able to demonstrate a few things,” the mayor said, noting that municipal funds are not needed for the annual event due to the sponsorships the meeting brings in.

Mr. Lane said the conference attracted worldwide attention.

“We had two consulate generals and the German chamber of commerce president here for the last one, so we have developed a reputation even for communities and countries who want to invest in Arizona in this field, as demonstrating a positive environment for it.”

As for the future of the Cure Corridor, Mr. Lane says he hopes that after his tenure is finished, someone else will take up interest in continuing the initiative forward.

“I’m not going to be here but for a couple more years. I’m hoping that someone in this office will take up the flag because it needs that drive. We’ve got it rolling and it’s doing something; I’m really hoping that it continues to flourish in a same type of mechanism,” he said.

“I’d like to see it grow modestly. I’d like for it to stay on the same line looking for efficiencies and compatibilities between different businesses within the industry, and of course technological innovations that are going to improve delivery and quality of care.

“I don’t ever want to describe ourselves as some kind of meet and greet kind of place, but it’s more than that, it’s an exchange of education and information.”

Northeast Valley News Editor Melissa Rosequist can be e-mailed at mrosequist@newszap.com or can be followed on Twitter at twitter.com/mrosequist_.

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable. Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the arrow in the upper right corner of the comment box.

Facebook Comment