Biotech's godmother is ready to retire

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Ruth Scott, the soft-spoken nurturing figure who led the state's biotech trade organization through a six-year stretch of growth, has announced plans to retire at the end of the year.

Scott, 62, is credited in biotech circles with doubling the Washington Biotechnology & Biomedical Association's membership from 191 companies to nearly 400, expanding the group's annual budget from $200,000 to $1 million, starting a regional biotech-investor conference and rallying industry executives to lobby harder in Olympia.

Scott said she plans to do some part-time consulting when she leaves and more volunteering for health-related advocacy organizations. Before joining the association, Scott spent 17 years working for the American Cancer Society, including a stint as executive vice president in Washington state.

She said working for the biotech association has been a "remarkable experience."

"I've worked for 40 years, and it's time for me (to retire)," Scott said. "It's also a defining time in the life of bioscience in our region, and I have brought the association to this level, and it's a wonderful opportunity to pass the baton to the next generation of leadership."

Her successor will arrive when the industry's political clout has never been stronger. Along with high-tech lobbyists, the biotech group won a battle in Olympia earlier this year to extend multimillion-dollar tax breaks for the industry to 2015, despite the state's budget woes.

But there is plenty of unfinished business. The state's first major attempt at a biotech economic-development plan, Bio21, has stalled within biotech or political circles at a time when many other states are racing ahead to foster growth of the industry.

Scott said crafting a statewide biotech growth strategy will be the top job of her successor.

Tom Ranken, chief executive of VizX Labs in Seattle and Scott's predecessor, said she succeeded "on a grand scale" in membership and finances but that the association is at a point where it could attract a political heavyweight.

No formal search has started, but Ranken said someone like Martha Choe, the former head of the state's economic-development department, would be an "outstanding candidate."

Luke Timmerman: 206-515-5644 or