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Find a Healthy Future in Tennessee

Health care research and innovation power state's role as a global player in life sciences.

By Patsy B. Weiler on July 26, 2022

University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis
Jeff Adkins

A long history as a center of health research and innovation has given Tennessee a global reputation in life sciences.

From medical devices and health care research to hospital administration and health IT, the state’s concentration of health care expertise, along with a growing technology sector and an entrepreneurial heritage, are fueling growth.

Since 2017, approximately 35 projects have been announced in the health care and life sciences sector in the state, creating 7,000+ jobs with capital investments of $829 million.

Healthy Numbers

More than 1,800 health care and life sciences establishments now operate in the state, employing more than 405,000 Tennesseans.

Health Care in Tennessee is Strong

Tennessee is a major player in medical devices. Companies such as DeRoyal Industries, MicroPort Orthopedics Inc., Medtronic and Wright Medical Technology maintain headquarters or major operations in the state.

Memphis and Shelby County are home to the country’s second-largest concentration of orthopedic and spine medical device manufacturing companies, which contribute $2.7 billion annually to the economy.

Nashville has long enjoyed a reputation as a health care capital, with more than 500 health care companies operating throughout the region. Recent data by the Nashville Health Care Council shows the industry has a $68 billion impact and provides 168,000 jobs in the Nashville region.

Familiar names such as HCA Healthcare enjoy a presence here, but established companies and new ventures are also making their mark.

Puritan Medical Products in Orlinda, TN
Puritan Medical Products

Expanding in Tennessee

Maine-based Puritan Medical Products — North America’s largest manufacturer of COVID-19 testing swabs — announced an expansion into Robertson County during 2021. The new plant in Orlinda brings an investment of more than $220 million and will provide 625 jobs over the next five years.

New Enterprises

Advocatia, a company dedicated to connecting the underserved with benefit programs to increase health care access and improve outcomes, is also a new face on the health care scene.

The company moved to Tennessee when it was selected for the Nashville Entrepreneur Center’s Project Healthcare program and was part of Project Healthcare Portfolio, a yearlong accelerator opportunity providing business support and industry expertise to new and growing companies.

Advocatia was named the 2021 Healthcare Emerging winner of Nashville Entrepreneur Center’s NEXT Awards. The company’s technology utilizes proprietary algorithms, unified applications, and signature and document capture to help the under-resourced identify benefits for which they are eligible.

“Advocatia works with providers, payers and a robust network of partners to impact communities through improved experience, equity, access and outcomes,” says CEO Ryan Brebner.

Throughout the state, research institutions, including Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC), both in Memphis, are globally recognized and bring intellectual capital to the state.

Ryan Brebner, CEO of Advocatia in Tennessee
Gregory Rothstein

“We were attracted to Tennessee for our corporate home for several reasons. The area has a tremendous quality of life, multiple colleges and universities, and a connection to health care that cannot be replicated in other states.”

Ryan Brebner, Advocatia CEO

Regenerative Medicine in Tennessee

Groundbreaking research is taking place at the Tennessee Institute of Regenerative Medicine, known as TennIRM. The institute brings together the expertise of UTHSC, the University of Memphis and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital with the goal of translating scientific discovery into new organ repair and replacement therapies.

TennIRM played an important role in bringing the 2022 International Experimental Biology and Medicine Conference to Memphis, the first time the event has taken place in the U.S.

“The goal of regenerative medicine is not the treatment of symptoms; rather it is to stop disease progression and restore fully functional healthy organs. All of us will face deterioration or loss of tissues and organs based on trauma, chronic injuries or aging,” says Dr. Steve Goodman, UTHSC vice chancellor for research.

“The development of methods to repair or replace these tissues and organs by means of regenerative medicine may well be the single most important driver for advancing medical care and economic development for decades to come.”

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