sealPurdue News

January 27, 2003

Business leaders back Purdue plan to energize state's biomed industry

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Twenty-six Indiana organizations and companies have endorsed Purdue University's plan to target the health care industry as a base for energizing the Indiana economy.

Purdue proposes to make the state a center of biomedical engineering, which combines engineering and life sciences to create biomedical products for the future. Support for the initiative, which would require a $5 million annual commitment from the state, would fund an expansion of Purdue's biomedical engineering graduate program and create the state's first undergraduate program in biomedical engineering at a public university.

"The initiative is consistent with Gov. Frank O'Bannon's new Energize Indiana plan and will build on Indiana's substantial foundation with this sector of the health industry," said Purdue President Martin C. Jischke. "Not only will the research associated with our biomedical engineering program spin off high-tech industry for Indiana, it will attract related companies to the state. At the same time, Purdue will produce the graduates these new industries need and also will supply the work force to expand the medical device and biotechnology companies already in Indiana."

The investment also is expected to generate $5 million annually in research sponsored by industry or the federal government.

In addition to the request for $5 million annually to operate the program, Purdue has asked the General Assembly to fund half of the $25 million cost to build a facility to house the Department of Biomedical Engineering. Purdue would raise the remaining $12 million from private sources.

The plan has been endorsed by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, Indiana Health Industry Forum, Indiana Medical Device Manufacturers Council, Central Indiana Corporate Partnership, Central Indiana Life Sciences Initiative, Indiana Proteomics Consortium, ARC of Indiana and the Indiana Building and Construction Trades Council. Companies supporting the effort are Indianapolis-based Guidant Corp., Roche Diagnostics Corp., SerVaas Inc., Carr Metal Products Inc., Barnard Associates Inc. and Barnard Life Sciences; DePuy Orthopedics, Biomet Inc., Zimmer and Medtronic Sofamor Danek of Warsaw; Cook Group of Bloomington; Theron of Carmel; Paragon Medical of Pierceton; Fort Wayne Metals Research Products Corp; Bioanalytical Systems Inc. of West Lafayette; ProMedic Inc. of McCordsville; Boston Scientific of Spencer; and Hill-Rom Inc. of Batesville.

"They all agree: Indiana already has the critical mass of companies needed for the effort to succeed," Jischke said.

According to the Indiana Health Industry Forum, Indiana has grown into a globally recognized center for medical devices, including orthopedic products, diagnostics, and high-tech cardiac implants, and needs a qualified work force to continue to flourish:

• Warsaw, for example, is known as an innovator in medical device research and development. It is home to at least 10 such companies, including Zimmer, DePuy and Biomet.

• In the leading medical device categories, Indiana already ranks between second and 12th in the nation, with the state's orthopedic industry leading the way. Sales of the state's orthopedics companies amount to $4 billion annually.

• Indiana also is home to some of the top medical diagnostics and therapeutics companies in the world, including Roche and Cook.

While one in nine jobs in Indiana is directly tied to life sciences and health care – the state's largest sector for private employment – the demand for qualified professionals in these fields exceeds supply. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that 31.4 percent more biomedical engineers will be needed by the medical device and biotechnology industries by 2010, which is double the rate for all other jobs combined.

While Indiana has identified biomedical engineering as an area where it currently possesses a strategic advantage, it is in jeopardy of losing out to its neighbors: Over the past decade, nationwide enrollments in biomedical engineering programs have nearly doubled from approximately 3,500 to 6,000 students. Several Big Ten peer institutions, such as Michigan, Northwestern, Minnesota and Wisconsin, have biomedical engineering undergraduate programs.

"Our students are Indiana's most precious resource," Jischke said. "The state must counter this 'brain drain' by providing the opportunity for these students to study and stay in Indiana."

If funding is approved by the Indiana General Assembly, Purdue would hire 55 people – including 20 new faculty and 25 graduate students – and graduate 100 students each year from the program.

In endorsing the plan, John G.R. Hurrell, president of the Indiana Proteomics Consortium, said: "Indiana has a growing critical need for such talented individuals in order to compete nationally and globally in the discovery and development of new diagnostic and therapeutic agents and devices. In addition, the growing collaborative ties of the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Purdue with the Indiana University School of Medicine serve as a model research and graduate education partnership that efficiently leverages Indiana's intellectual resources."

The biomedical engineering effort is one of the primary thrusts of Purdue's Bindley Bioscience Center, one of four interdisciplinary centers in Discovery Park.

Writer: Jeanne Norberg, (765) 494-2084,

Source: Martin C. Jischke, (765) 494-9708

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

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