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Have you heard of the BioHealth Capital Region?

Monday, April 18, 2016  
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That's how MedImmune and a collection of regional stakeholders say Greater Washington should brand itself to better promote its biotech and life sciences industry. The name was introduced as part of the BioHealth Capital Region forum at MedImmune headquarters in Gaithersburg.

"This is a critical need for the industry. We don't do a good enough job talking about the strengths and the benefits of our region," said Jarrod Borkat, MedImmune's senior director of external collaborations. "When you look at other places like Silicon Valley or Research Triangle Park in North Carolina or the Fashion Capital of the World, they all have names that are associated with them. When you hear them, you know exactly what they are talking about." Greater Washington has no such strong regional identity that could help attract key talent and venture capital, he said.

Borkat said initiative is led by MedImmune, but is part of a coordinated effort of at least 120 stakeholders from different companies and universities as well as economic development and technology groups. Many of those people, including the university presidents from around the region, said it was the first time they'd all been in the same room together.

Bahija Jallal, executive vice president of MedImmune, said the company has matured and can prop up the efforts. "Every time there is an ecosystem like this with what happened in California, what happened in Boston, there is always a company anchor first," Jallal said. "The other anchors are the universities. What gave us the hope and belief this would work is every time we turned around, there is a first. For instance, we pulled together all the university presidents in one meeting, and they said it was the first time they were all in the same room."

So how did they land on BioHealth Capital Region? They started with about 200 options and narrowed that down with a lot of input from stakeholders over several months, Borkat said. Initially, the idea was to brand just the biotech sector. But they found "biohealth" a more encompassing term, including drugs, devices and digital health.

"Different people will define biotech differently,” he said. “But what we realized is ‘biohealth’ is not commonly used and commonly owned. It gave us an opportunity to own something that can be affiliated with this region."

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