LifeScienceTN chairman is now UM's Townsend, former ECD Staff Chief
By Milt Capps
EARLIER this week, Ted Townsend was named chairman of Life Science Tennessee, the advocate for the industry that spans research, products, devices, equipment and other goods and services in sectors ranging from agribusiness to pharmaceuticals and biotech.
The 20-year-old association's board of directors announced today that Townsend's volunteer term has begun.
Townsend is employed as the University of Memphis chief economic development and government relations officer. He has served on the LifeScienceTN board six years and remains a member of the group's executive committee.
He succeeded Josh Brown in the LifeScienceTN chairmanship. Brown, until recently a Nashville-based Pfizer executive, has relocated to New York to serve as Pfizer's national VP for federal government relations. He was roughly halfway through a two-year term as LSTN chairman. Brown had succeeded another Memphian in the chairmanship: Steve Bares PhD, who is CEO of Memphis Bioworks Foundation.
Townsend assumes the mantle of leadership just as LifeScienceTN and many of its allies are preparing for the sometimes precarious process of adapting to priorities of the next Governor of Tennessee.
Gov. Bill Haslam is to pass the baton to Party Unknown in January 2019, following this fall's gubernatorial election and mid-term federal elections. A month or so later, the new governor's first budget is due to hit legislators' desks.
Townsend told Venture Nashville today that inevitably there is uncertainty associated with the State's change of command, but he has begun framing some legislative priorities.
For example, with both a new Governor and nearly 30 new faces expected in the General Assembly's House and Senate after this year's elections, Townsend said "it's going to be really critical" to continue building on existing legislative relationships and to take the LifeScienceTN story to newly minted legislators.
He emphasized that, among other things, the association plans to continue to encourage further efforts by the bipartisan Life Science Caucus formed two months ago in the General Assembly, with leadership from State Sen. Ferrell Haile (R-Gallatin) and State Rep. Mark White (R-Memphis). Attracting jobs and investment to Tennessee are among Caucus goals.
Further, he said the association must continue to build upon its past achievements to push for further support for Tennessee's "Innovation Economy."
He explained that while there are myriad components to such an effort, one key will be fostering more research statewide, on university campuses, within corporations and elsewhere.
He acknowledged, as has the Haslam Administration previously, that the state's lackluster ranking in patents awarded, total R&D spending and commercialization "wins" remain pressure points.
Among other things, he believes that existing state matching funding for Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants winners and related efforts warrant continued support.
In addition to creating a broader path for jobs-producing commercialization of native Tennessee intellectual property, the state must continue fostering ever-greater collaboration between researchers and corporations, said Townsend.
He cited the state's successful Life Sciences Mentors Network as representing real leverage and a model for other innovation verticals.
In addition to dealing with the election cycle, Townsend is stepping into the role after some other life science stakeholders -- BioTN and others -- have undertaken related initiatives of their own, as previously reported here.
Prior to joining the Administration of his alma mater, UM, Townsend served seven years at the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (ECD), ultimately as deputy commissioner and chief operating officer.
Townsend's ECD tenure spanned the appointments of a succession of three ECD commmissioners: Former private-equity and merchant banking executive Bill Hagerty, now U.S. ambassador to Japan; Radio Systems entrepreneur Randy Boyd, now running for the Republican nomination for governor of Tennessee; and, Bob Rolfe, the current ECD commissioner.
Those ECD commissioners also each served as chairman of the board of directors of Launch Tennessee (Tennessee Technology Development Corporation), which is closely allied with LifeScienceTN. Notably, LaunchTN CEO Charlie Brock is an ex officio member of the LifeScienceTN board; and, three current members of the LifeScienceTN board are members of the board of LaunchTN.
As deputy to a trio of successive ECD commissioners, Townsend was often in involved in oversight of LaunchTN, which is essentially a nonprofit public-private subsidiary of ECD, its chief sponsor.
LaunchTN and LifeScienceTN have in recent years often collaborated on legislative strategy, particulary as relates to securing state funding for their programs.
Townsend's biopharma industry bona fides include having co-founded Memphis-based arGentis Pharmaceuticals, whose investors-of-record include Innova Memphis. Among other goals, Argentis has sought to commercialize IP in collaboration with the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, UTHSC. (The company's website says it continues to seek additional capital and/or a strategic partner.)
At the time of his appointment in Memphis, the university said Townsend's role would be strongly tied to the institution's efforts to attract and partner with companies bring attractive white-collar employment opportunities on to the campus and into the surrounding University District.
His Memphis duties also entail advancing the university's for-profit subsidiary -- services-oriented UMRF Ventures Inc., a primary focus of which is contributing to creation of "white-collar" jobs for university alumni.
In March, a spokesperson for LifeScienceTN told VNC the nonprofit had 107 corporate or institutional members, while its Academic Alliance has about 50 individual post-doctoral student participants.
In 2014, the most recent data available, the state's life-sciences sector had more than 40,000 workers associated with 1,275 entities. Here is a list of current members.
A 2016 summary showed Tennessee ranking in the 2nd and 3rd quentiles of the Fifty States on the basis of comparative performance metrics. Venture Capital funding is weighted heavily toward Health/Medical IT and Services. That summary is here.
Prior to 2010, the LifeScienceTN was known as Tennessee Biotechnology Association. In the years between its chartering in 1999 and Joe Cook's chairmanship, the organization was led, among others, by chairpersons or presidents, including Leslie Wisner-Lynch DDS DDMsc; and, Robert Acuff PhD, then a director of government relations for the Quillen College of Medicine at East Tennessee State University.
Townsend, now age 45, earned a degree in Health Admininstration at the University of Memphis in 1995. In addition to UM, ECD and arGentis, he worked with a medical staffing services company and briefly maintained a consulting practice.
Townsend, his wife and their high-school age daughter reside in Memphis.
During his service during the Haslam Administration, Townsend served as Gov. Haslam's designee/alternate for dealing with such groups as the Delta Regional Authority, the Appalachian Regional Commission, and the Tennessee Workforce Development Board. And, in 2017, he was named to a Council of State Governments Fiscal and Economic Development Public Policy Committee. His LinkedIn is here.
LifeScienceTN staffing and program support are provided by Nashville-based Hall Strategies, with Hall principal Abby Trotter serving as LifeScienceTN's executive director and one of its registered Tennessee lobbyists.
In today's release, Trotter said of her chairman's appointment, "Ted is uniquely positioned for this role as he is extremely familiar with our organization and mission and is well versed in the economic benefits of strengthening the life sciences industry in Tennessee." VNC
.last edited 1031 5 May 2018