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Day 1 of the GeekWire Summit 2016 at the Seattle Sheraton, October 4, 2016. Photo by Dan DeLong for GeekWire
Juno Therapeutics CEO Hans Bishop speaking at the 2016 GeekWire Summit. Photo by Dan DeLong for GeekWire

While Washington state’s biotech industry is on the up and up, it still lags far behind hubs like San Francisco and Cambridge, Mass.

Washington’s biotech industry is not only lagging behind, it is actually regressing, said Hans Bishop, CEO of Seattle-based Juno Therapeutics, a biotech company focused on developing cancer immunotherapies.

Speaking at the GeekWire Summit 2016, Bishop said that if the area wants to catch up, the key is encouraging more biotech companies to open up shop in the state. Bishop pointed out that the state’s industry was growing a decade ago, increasing market share and producing innovative ideas and patents.

Juno Therapeutics CEO Hans Bishop. Photo by Dan DeLong for GeekWire
Juno Therapeutics CEO Hans Bishop. Photo by Dan DeLong for GeekWire

“And now we’re going backwards,” Bishop said, citing issues like the expiration of state tax credits for companies with extensive R&D efforts, along with a lack of wet lab space in the state, which he said is “as rare as hen’s teeth.”

“For me, success is all about more companies starting here,” Bishop said. “It’s a blend of financial incentives, operating space, and encouraging universities to keep spinning out companies and keep those companies in the state.”

Bishop said biotech startups typically operate at a loss for years before seeing profits from their extensively researched products. During that initial period of loss, many states give these R&D heavy firms tax credits, but Washington state’s tax credit program expired in 2014.

“We’ve got a lot to do, but I think the work is starting and I believe there is real intent, and I hope we can get ourselves back on track,” Bishop said.

Juno Therapeutics spun out of Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in 2013 and completed a successful IPO a year later.

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