The possibility of Westchester becoming one of the country’s premier destinations for companies in the health tech, medtech, and biotech fields was in the spotlight last week at Health Tech ’14: Fueling Innovation in Westchester, a conference sponsored by the Westchester County Association (WCA) and held at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel in Tarrytown.
The conference attracted some 600 attendees from the science and business communities with a similar agenda: to nurture and grow Westchester’s burgeoning health tech sector and to leverage the county’s assets to attract additional companies in the industry. The event’s panelists, guest speakers, and attendees (most of whom are way smarter than most of us) were tossing around scientific terms like “bioinformatics,” “human leukoctye antigen sequence-based typing,” and “brain-machine interface devices”—but you don’t need a degree in molecular biochemistry to understand that this is all good news for the county’s economy.
As home to heavy hitters like Regeneron (New York State’s largest biotech firm), Acorda Therapeutics, Profectus BioSciences, and Bayer Healthcare, plus innovative startups like Histogenetics, ContraFect, Nuvita Professional, and Mobile Health One (all in attendance at the event), Westchester already lays claim to a $15-billion healthcare, life sciences, biotech, and IT sector—and the growth possibilities seem strong. Our local firms are delving into what the conference’s panelists and speakers identified as some of the key trends in health care today: personalized medicine, mobile health applications, telemedicine, technology transfer, wellness, and accountable care. And, they noted, Westchester provides key advantages to companies in this sector, including affordable real estate: tech and startup-friendly commercial space in Yonkers and White Plains leases for $25 to $30 per square foot versus $65 in New York City, noted panelist William Cuddy of CBRE.
Here is what some of the HealthTech’14 attendees had to say about the growth possibilities of Westchester’s health tech sector
· “We are in the midst of a health care tsunami—and it is a tremendous opportunity for Westchester. Our goal is to be one of the largest health tech, biotech, and medtech hubs in the Northeast. We think it can be a $15 billion economic engine for us.” –Attorney Bill Harrington, WCA chairman and partner, Bleakley Platt, White Plains
· “Westchester has been a great place for us to grow our business. Companies from all over the world are contacting us to use our infrastructure. I hope to one day have a great genetics campus in Harrison.” –Dr. Nazih Cereb, CEO & co-founder, Histogenetics, Ossining
· “Being in Westchester allows us to take advantage of collaborations with organizations throughout New York State. We have the ability to have key people from both research and financial institutions come to Yonkers for face-to-face conversations—for a small biomedical firm, that is so valuable.” –Daniel Cuoto, senior vice president, manufacturing and operations, ContraFect, Yonkers
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David Purtrino, PhD.
Neil Stahl, PhD.
· “What is happening now in Westchester—I have to pinch myself sometimes. Westchester is going to be a leader in health technology.” –David Putrino, PhD, director of telemedicine and virtual rehabilitation, Burke Medical Research Institute, White Plains
· “Wow—Westchester. Who knew? We are excelling in the business of healthcare—and it is the most noble enterprise… The excitement here is palpable.” –Neil Stahl, PhD, senior vice president, research and development sciences, Regeneron, Tarrytown
· “There isn’t enough primary and tertiary care, in my opinion, in this county of 1 million people. I believe that a place like White Plains Hospital and other institutions in Westchester can be brought to a whole other level. Our strategy is… to build the full spectrum and capacity to care for this population. Our goal is to keep patients in Westchester—and we will fulfill that promise.” –Steven Safyer, MD, CEO, Montefiore Medical Center
· “I haven’t seen this kind of energy, this excitement, this vibe [at this conference] since I was in Palo Alto ten years ago.” –Nuala Ronan, managing partner, Databean, Mount Vernon*
*(Databean is the winner of the conference’s “Pitch to the Pros” contest; they will receive a $10,000 cash grant, plus a spot in the WCA’s BLUEPRINT Accelerator Network.)