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Delaware passed up for $80M tech hub funds

Katie Tabeling

Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania met with many stakeholders, including those in Delaware, to refine its proposal for a piece of $500 million of federal funding. | PHOTO COURTESY OF PROPEL

WILMINGTON — The Southeastern Pennsylvania region and its partners, including Delaware, have fallen short on its bid to win a piece of $504 million of federal funding as part of the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s tech hub program.

Delaware was one of three states that joined together in the bid for the PROPEL Tech Hub, seeking close to $80 million to boost the region’s relevance in precision medicine. The region was one of 30 that competed for a piece of the federal funds that aimed to scale up the United States’ production of technology and accelerate innovation.

Federal officials have selected 12 other proposals in Montana, Indiana, Illinois, Nevada, New York, New Hampshire, South Florida, Ohio, Oklahoma, Wisconsin. Two proposals were partnerships: Colorado and New Mexico as well as South Carolina and Georgia.

Projects that were selected by federal officials support development of lithium batteries, computer chips, quantum computing, personal medicine and more.

The Southeastern Pennsylvania region proposal focused primarily on precision medicine, a growing technology that focuses on using biological data to find accurate diagnosis of diseases and treatments. The PROPEL Tech Hub proposal aimed to increase efficiencies to bring such technology to market as well as sharing data across a vast network.

The driving force behind the proposal was Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania, although the region spanned Delaware, Philadelphia and Camden, N.J. as well as Maryland and included 70 organizations.

Ben Franklin Technology Partners Chief Scientific Officer Anthony Greene said that while this was not the news he and others hoped for, he was still “enormously proud” of the unprecedented collaboration among its partners.

“We know our partners share the same goals and vision for our region’s future: to accelerate development and manufacturing of cutting-edge medicine, build pathways to skilled careers, and expand access to life changing health care,” Greene said.

Delaware has been a hot bed of activity when it comes to developing personal medicine in recent years. ChristianaCare’s Helen F. Graham Cancer Center and Research Institute has been researching and practicing the most-advanced examples of it to date, while the public-private partnership National Institute for Innovation in Manufacturing Biopharmaceuticals (NIIMBL) is a national leader in refining efficient manufacturing practices and developing a workforce.

Delaware Bioscience Association President and CEO Michael Fleming told the Delaware Business Times that although it was disappointing that PROPEL did not receive funding, he considered the fact that the state made it this far as a win for Delaware’s visibility in the space.

“Advancing to the final round of consideration was a significant achievement demonstrating the strength of our region’s precision medicine and broader life sciences capabilities and talent,” Fleming said. “This effort led to the creation of an unprecedented regional collaboration that will be a huge asset in driving industry growth and opportunity and patient value going forward.”

Innovation Space President and CEO Bill Provine served on the PROPEL Steering Committee and helped guide the entrepreneur project related to the proposal. He echoed the sentiments of others, noting that the team was proud of the work achieved with partner organizations and institutions across the Greater Philadelphia region. The Innovation Space has served as home for many companies like Prelude Therapeutics as they grew and eventually found their own space. New tenants include rising Cellergy Pharma, and Provine noted that Delaware already has made a mark in the bioscience sector.

“Collaboration is at the heart of success, and we’re committed to leveraging what we have built through PROPEL for the greater good,” Provine told DBT. “The [federal] program’s main objectives are to catalyze and accelerate tech hub growth in diverse locations, open up better opportunities for jobs in those locations, and strengthen our overall economy ….the Greater Philadelphia region is already a national leader in therapeutics and precision medicine and this strength may have been our biggest weakness in the selection process.”

He also congratulated the 12 tech hubs that did receive federal funding and looked forward to the prospect of future funding opportunities.

U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester and U.S. Sens. Chris Coons and Tom Carper, who were key leaders in Delaware’s proposal in PROPEL, added that the millions of federal investments made would benefit important regions across the country.

“While we are disappointed that the Greater Philadelphia Region’s proposal was not selected, our commitment to growing Delaware’s workforce, spurring our economy, and strengthening public health through innovation remains a top priority,” the three said in a prepared statement.


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