BOZEMAN — When LigoCyte Pharmaceuticals was founded in 1998, the team that built the company was certain that Bozeman, with the talent available through Montana State University, would be the best place to start the company. But who had ever heard of an early-stage biotech in Montana?

Even after we gained venture capital investment, the investors wanted to have our board meetings in San Francisco or Boston.

Fourteen years later, when the multinational pharmaceutical giant Takeda acquired LigoCyte, leadership at the company decided to make Bozeman, and our facility at LigoCyte, a research hub for Takeda’s global vaccine business.

During my seven years as CEO, LigoCyte attracted and retained talent because people simply love to live in our state, and Takeda continues to see the benefit of the experience and skill demonstrated by the employees from LigoCyte. As all of us know, there is a strong work ethic and sense of community in Montana.

As LigoCyte’s story clearly shows, groundbreaking young companies can survive and thrive in Big Sky Country. If we want Montana’s R&D-based economy to continue to grow, we need our policy makers to continue to support laws that encourage the growth of early-stage innovators.

Much of America’s next generation scientific research is being conducted at small and start-up businesses. And myriad studies have shown that small businesses are the creators of the most new jobs. Fortunately, there is a bill pending in the U.S. Senate that would support these companies as they pursue scientific breakthroughs and stimulate our economy.

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The Start-up Jobs and Innovation Act is designed to stimulate investment in growing innovators – and investment is vital to fund costly, long-term research. Under the bill, companies will be able to partner with private investors on an R&D project, bringing in important capital for groundbreaking research ongoing at small companies in Montana and across the country.

LigoCyte has spent nearly 10 years developing a norovirus vaccine. During my time at CEO, we spent over $50 million on that research – the vast majority of which came from private investors. This exciting new legislation will bring in new investors to early-stage companies, help enhance a valuable and innovative industry that has developed solutions to prevent disease, and set the stage for more success stories like LigoCyte.

To an outsider, Montana might seem like an unlikely place for innovative breakthroughs in new medicines and vaccines. But we have an opportunity to build on our progress and become an integral part of America’s 21st century economy. I am hopeful that our Montana congressional delegation will support the burgeoning researchers and job creators here at home by endorsing the Start-up Jobs and Innovation Act.

Don Beeman recently retired from the company he founded and remains active in the Bozeman community.