Moderated by Rick Badie
Is Atlanta poised to become the Silicon Valley of biotechnology? Executives of Galectin Therapeutics, a bio tech firm that recently located here, think the city possesses the infrastructure and business climate to make it happen. Meanwhile, a hospital executive writes about the local growth of urgent care centers, medical facilities that offer patients convenient hours and free up emergency rooms.
The world needs a biotech Silicon Valley
By Gilbert F. Amelio and Rod Martin
America’s Founders sought to unleash the creative energies of every citizen, not just the privileged few. They created a system designed to encourage and protect commerce and innovation.
Alexis de Tocqueville described the new nation essentially as a classless society wherein all were treated equally, and individuals rose by merit. Though imperfectly applied to some, the difference between Tocqueville’s America and the rest of the world, in his time or ours, was and remains as daylight and dark. The United States grew from an almost insignificant “start-up” to the most successful nation on the planet in barely more than a century.
America, then and now, has birthed virtually every important industrial innovation. It is our unique culture of liberty that has incubated this unparalleled inventiveness, a freedom unfettered by government intervention and control. We believe that by embracing this vision, the Atlanta region can become the “Silicon Valley” for the cutting edge of 21st century science, curing the big diseases of our time.
Today when we think of Silicon Valley, we think of Intel, Apple and PayPal. But in the beginning, it was government, particularly the Pentagon, that sponsored foundational research in semiconductors at universities and corporate labs, encouraged competition and strictly adhered to a policy of noninterference in the pioneering firms it helped.
Today, biotechnology and the life sciences are primed and ready to transform our world as railroads, aircraft and semiconductors did before them. The question is whether we — specifically, the Atlanta area — will rise to the occasion.
We have just finished moving Galectin Therapeutics to Atlanta. Galectin is a biotech company working toward cures for cancer and liver and kidney fibrosis. The area’s pro-business, pro-biotech ecosystem made our decision easy. The Advanced Technology Development Center at Georgia Tech, named by Forbes one of the world’s top “incubators” for business, is a crown jewel. There’s also UGA’s Complex Carbohydrate Research Center, the Emory School of Medicine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Georgia’s “business friendliness.”
These investments make Georgia one of only a handful of states capable of becoming a Silicon Valley-like environment for biotech. If Atlanta is to become the biotech Silicon Valley, its universities must produce and encourage innovators the same way Stanford has pioneered in California. As in Silicon Valley, many of those graduates must be from overseas.
As Washington again eyes immigration reform, Georgia’s Congressional delegation should push to let the youth of the world choose an advanced degree, a place of business and a permanent home in America. Why should we let these inventors build up Bangalore, Brussels and Beijing when they long to live and contribute right here?
Above all, government must stop viewing medicine as a budget item to cut rather than people who need to be cured. Today’s public and private bureaucrats see healing people as a burden to the system. When companies like Galectin Therapeutics discover breakthrough cures, millions of lives and billions of dollars will be saved. Cancer and liver disease are expensive to treat, but that cost disappears with cures.
The world needs a biotech Silicon Valley. We believe that Atlanta is perfectly poised to become just that.
Gilbert F. Amelio, former CEO of Apple Computer and a director of AT&T, is a member of Galectin Therapeutics’ board of directors. Rod Martin is vice chairman of Galectin.
Urgent care centers: Convenience for you
By Sharad Patel
When you get sick, you probably can’t find time to go to the doctor. Health care has become like everything else — an afterthought to work and family demands. What if you could walk in and see a doctor whenever you wanted? After work or on a Sunday? When it’s convenient for you?
Many people expect health care to be easily accessible. They don’t want to take time off work to see a doctor. They want an appointment the same day, not days or weeks later. That’s part of the rationale for urgent care centers, a rapidly growing industry in Atlanta and nationally.
An urgent care center is walk-in based; no need for an appointment. It typically offers extended hours, including weekends. It is often in a major retail center, near your grocery or drug store.
Tenet Healthcare is opening several urgent care centers in the Atlanta area. In January, Urgent Care-Atlanta Medical Center opened on Camp Creek Parkway. We will also open two centers affiliated with North Fulton Hospital — one in May off Atlanta Highway in Alpharetta, and another in August in the Crabapple section of Alpharetta. Plans are to develop 10 centers around metro Atlanta in the next two years.
Urgent care centers are not new, but their need is greater. People who don’t have insurance generally cannot afford to see a private practice physician. Instead, they may suffer through a flu or a cold. Many go to emergency rooms when they are sick, relying on it for primary care. When the Affordable Care Act kicks in next year, we can expect to see an influx of people who suddenly have health insurance but no physician. They are likely to go to urgent care centers.
There are also people who are insured, but just don’t take time to seek a primary care doctor. They wait until they get sick, but by that point, they’re not likely to get a doctor’s appointment the same day. An urgent care center offers convenience.
The savings generated by urgent care centers are potentially substantial. A 2010 RAND Corporation study found that between 14 and 27 percent of all emergency room visits in the U.S. could be treated at urgent care centers or retail clinics, saving about $4.4 billion a year.
This is partly why Tenet is investing in urgent care centers, staffed by licensed providers trained in emergency, family or internal medicine. And you may be able to get needed testing and laboratory work done all in one location.
Urgent care centers are not intended to replace emergency rooms. If you are having a heart attack or stroke or have been in a traumatic accident, go to the hospital. Centers treat minor illnesses and injuries — upper respiratory conditions, flu symptoms, gastrointestinal illnesses, dehydration and broken bones.
Hopefully, you won’t need to go to the doctor. But if you do, it’s nice to know you can go when it’s convenient for you.
Dr. Sharad Patel is director of urgent care operations for Tenet Healthcare, parent company of Atlanta Medical Center and North Fulton Hospital.