Fitzsimons Innovation Community – Building a Life Sciences Pipeline: Life Sciences Leadership
By: Colorado BioScience Association Date: 07/03/2023
Fitzsimons Innovation Community’s monthly blog, Building a Life Sciences Pipeline, explores life sciences leadership and the connectivity that exists between Colorado’s research, healthcare, and innovation communities.
“It’s not enough to just have a great idea for the next big healthcare innovation. You also need a place where you can refine that idea and test it out, as well as partners who can help you commercialize it.”
That’s what Mark Spiecker, President of STAQ Pharma, told us when we talked to him recently about life sciences leadership and the connectivity that exists between Colorado’s research, healthcare, and innovation communities. With a career as a bioscience entrepreneur, pharmaceutical leader, and chairman of the board for the Colorado BioScience Association and Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, among other positions, Spiecker has been part of the drive behind Colorado evolving into a life sciences haven, a place where ideas have the space and partnerships available to get them to market.
As Spiecker describes, things have changed for bioscience entrepreneurs in the last 15 to 20 years. Entrepreneurs had a fairly easy time finding a spot to sit at a lab bench and work on ideas, but it was a completely different obstacle to find mentors and investors to help them navigate the business side of science. He explains that Colorado was known as a “flyby” state. Local bioscience entrepreneurs had to go to the coasts to find investors, and inevitably, those investments would come with the caveat of relocation. But that is no longer the case for Colorado.
Colorado BioScience Association, as well as other organizations like the Colorado Workforce Development Council and Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, under Mark’s engagement, began to adjust their thinking and strategy to respond to the growth and changing nature of the bioscience industry and how those forces could be drawn to our state with the right mix of investment, development, and planning.
Colorado BioScience Association worked closely with the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT) to create the Advanced Industry Accelerator Grant Program, as one of the many programs and alignments that helped to turn Colorado into a bioscience destination. Our state already had the second most highly educated population in the country; now those bright people wanted to stay, launch, and grow their innovations here. And they wanted to invite colleagues, too.
The University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus and Fitzsimons Innovation Community have been key in developing and increasing momentum. The medical school campus, paired with two of the top hospitals in the country—UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital and Children’s Hospital Colorado—and a world-class research and commercialization innovation center across the street has fostered strategic partnerships, improved research, and drawn a pool of talent from all over the country.
Spiecker’s way of doing business is a testament to his belief that the bioscience companies of Colorado are truly “all in this together.” He knows his association with Children’s Hospital Colorado, Colorado BioScience Association, and Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce offered strategic networks for STAQ Pharma getting its first large hospital clients. Mark’s belief in paying it forward affirms his leadership and commitment to taking Colorado to a top five hub for life sciences. If an investor isn’t the right fit for him, he asks them what they are pursuing and is sure to mention a couple of up-and-coming Colorado companies that fit the bill. Those companies tend to return the favor, and the network that creates is instrumental in success. It’s good business and reaffirms you can succeed by doing good.
Spiecker truly believes that a rising tide lifts all boats. And after decades of bioscience organizations and investors flying right by, Colorado, though landlocked, is currently experiencing a high tide.