Today when we think of Silicon Valley, we think of Intel, Apple and PayPal. But in the beginning, it was government, particularly the Pentagon, that sponsored foundational research in semiconductors at universities and corporate labs, encouraged competition and strictly adhered to a policy of noninterference in the pioneering firms it helped.
Today, biotechnology and the life sciences are primed and ready to transform our world as railroads, aircraft and semiconductors did before them. The question is whether we — specifically, the Atlanta area — will rise to the occasion.
We have just finished moving Galectin Therapeutics to Atlanta. Galectin is a biotech company working toward cures for cancer and liver and kidney fibrosis. The area’s pro-business, pro-biotech ecosystem made our decision easy. The Advanced Technology Development Center at Georgia Tech, named by Forbes one of the world’s top “incubators” for business, is a crown jewel. There’s also UGA’s Complex Carbohydrate Research Center, the Emory School of Medicine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Georgia’s “business friendliness.”
These investments make Georgia one of only a handful of states capable of becoming a Silicon Valley-like environment for biotech.
If Atlanta is to become the biotech Silicon Valley, its universities must produce and encourage innovators the same way Stanford has pioneered in California.
As in Silicon Valley, many of those graduates must be from overseas. As Washington again eyes immigration reform, Georgia’s Congressional delegation should push to let the youth of the world choose an advanced degree, a place of business and a permanent home in America. Why should we let these inventors build up Bangalore, Brussels and Beijing when they long to live and contribute right here?
Above all, government must stop viewing medicine as a budget item to cut rather than people who need to be cured. Today’s public and private bureaucrats see healing people as a burden to the system.
When companies like Galectin Therapeutics discover breakthrough cures, millions of lives and billions of dollars will be saved. Cancer and liver disease are expensive to treat, but that cost disappears with cures.
The world needs a biotech Silicon Valley. We believe that Atlanta is perfectly poised to become just that.