iBIO, the Illinois Biotechnology Innovation Organization, today announced the launch of Transform Illinois, its innovative new program to enhance pandemic preparedness and recovery, erase health equity barriers and continue to nurture the state’s life sciences community. iBIO created the Transform Illinois initiative as a natural evolution from its focus on the iBIO COVID-19 PPE Response Fund, developed through the organization’s role on the task force created by Illinois Governor JB Pritzker in mid-March.

iBIO’s announcement coincides with the groundbreaking ceremony for Fulton Labs, a new 400,000+ square foot private laboratory in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood. The 16-story building will help solve a chronic shortage of Class A laboratory space in the area and will feature a full floor of shared laboratory space and programming to help early-stage companies grow and stay in the State of Illinois. The facility is scheduled to open in late 2021.

Transform Illinois will engage with many of the state’s stakeholders, including industry leaders, academic research centers, elected officials, public policy experts, investors and charitable foundations. Working closely with these groups, iBIO will promote best practices, connect community resources in a coordinated effort and engage iBIO’s members to build a more resilient and inclusive community.

Transform Illinois will target three high-priority needs:

  1. Pandemic Preparedness & Recovery: Leveraging experiences gained through the creation and implementation of the iBIO COVID19 PPE Response Fund, as well as the Essential Equipment Taskforce we will accelerate and expand research efforts and develop innovative solutions to prevent, diagnose, treat and stop the spread of future pandemics and to minimize the impact on our community. 
  2. Address health equity barriers and build a more inclusive industry, starting with increased access to science, technology, engineering and math education programs and coordinating support for existing initiatives to break down obstacles to better health in underserved areas of the state.  
  3. Help Illinois build, attract and retain high-caliber life sciences companies that are not only focused on improving patients’ lives, but also serve as responsible stewards of the community.

Significant growth in life sciences

With nearly 88,000 direct jobs, Illinois is home to a large and growing life sciences community. Since releasing iBIO’s 2018 Life Sciences Economic Blueprint, which identifies capital and infrastructure improvement as key economic growth initiatives for Illinois, there has been a $1billion increase in venture investment into the state’s life sciences community. Additionally, Illinois is benefitting from a 26% increase in lab space: More than 780,000 square feet of laboratory space has opened or is currently under construction over the past two years.

Illinois is home to leading life sciences companies that are not only at the scientific forefront of improving patients’ lives, but also are pillars in the community, providing support to their employees and the communities where they live. While the COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the immense value our community provides to patients, the healthcare ecosystem and our economy, the pandemic has also uncovered significant and important shortcomings in our infrastructure, operations, and the impact of bias in health equity and in our society in general. 

“Fulton Labs is an exciting development for our life sciences community and it reflects the tremendous growth we have seen in Illinois to support the startup ecosystem.” iBIO President and CEO John Conrad said, “The COVID pandemic has highlighted challenges our community and society are facing and right now we have the opportunity through Transform Illinois to build a more resilient and inclusive life sciences community.”

Update on the iBIO COVID-19 PPE Response Fund 

Over the past four months, iBIO has leveraged its COVID-19 PPE Response Fund to help meet the needs of doctors, nurses and first responders throughout the state. These supplies helped Illinois transition into Phase III of its recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. The series of orders are made possible through contributions from the statewide community, most recently by a significant grant from the Baxter International Foundation. 

The Baxter International Foundation helps advance Baxter’s mission to save and sustain lives by partnering with organizations to make a meaningful difference in the lives of people who depend on the company’s products, and in the communities where employees live and work around the world. Headquartered in Deerfield, Illinois, the Foundation’s grant to iBIO is part of its global support of groups working on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“We’re proud to contribute to iBIO’s efforts to supply protective medical equipment to local healthcare workers and first responders,” said Veronica Arroyave, executive director of the Baxter International Foundation. “We thank iBIO for its leadership in bringing together the life sciences community to make a positive difference across Illinois.”

In addition to the Baxter International Foundation donation, the iBIO COVID-19 PPE Response Fund has  been supported by Horizon Therapeutics, Astellas Pharma, the Lundbeck US Charitable Fund, The Pfizer Foundation and donations from individuals.

Summary of the iBIO COVID-19 PPE Response Fund’s impact Since its March 23rd creation:

Monetary donations: $1,110,377
Items purchased and donated to date

  • 109,920 Protective Clothing (goggles, gloves, gowns, boot covers
  • 200,000 Masks 
  • 241,750 Testing Materials (no contact thermometers, nasal swabs, chemical agents)