PROGRESS: Battelle analysis shows growth in biosciences

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SAN FRANCISCO – Employment and other economic activity in the biosciences have grown dramatically in the past three years, and states working to attract bioscience companies are learning that success means specializing in specific sub-sectors, according to a new study by the Battelle Memorial Institute and the State Science and Technology Institute.

Study expanded. The study is the most comprehensive analysis ever done to quantify the scope and impact of bioscience employment in all 50 states.

It also examines programs in each state to promote the development of bioscience companies.

Among the key findings:

* In 2004, 40 states specifically target the biosciences for development and all 50 states have economic development initiatives available to assist bioscience companies.

Investments have grown – as much as $500 million in Florida, and experimental approaches, such as tax credits to encourage investment in private venture capital funds, have also increased significantly.

* More than 885,000 people in the United States are employed in the biosciences. The largest segment of this group is working in the areas of medical devices and equipment, which accounts for 37 percent of bioscience employment.

* In 2003, bioscience workers on average were paid at least $18,600 more than the overall national average private sector annual wage.

Tremendous growth. “This study demonstrates the tremendous recent growth of the biosciences and should be helpful to inform policymakers and industry leaders who want to encourage this growth throughout the United States,” said Biotechnology Industry Organization President Carl B. Feldbaum.

Broad applications. While there are many reasons states are focusing on the biosciences, the fact that the biosciences cut across manufacturing, services and research and are not limited merely to medicine or agriculture appears to be a significant factor.

States and regions that are promoting bioscience development are focusing on the activities best suited for the area.

For example, North Dakota is focusing on bioprocessing in value-added agriculture, while Missouri is seeking to become a leading center in plant and animal health.

States such as Colorado, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Utah are working in the area of medical devices, while other states are devoting their attentions to research and testing.

Substantial employment. Partly as a result of economic development programs, 15 states have at least 5 percent employment in at least one bioscience sector, and 24 states have at least 3 percent employment in one or more sub-sectors, according to the report.

Twelve states – California, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia – have both large employment bases in the biosciences and are specialized in at least one industry sub-sector.

Factors that appear to influence a state’s ability to grow bioscience employment include the degree of involvement by research institutions, available capital, access to facilities and equipment, a stable and supportive tax and regulatory environment and a long-term perspective.

That long-term perspective is reflected in every state’s renewed emphasis on science and math education, including programs throughout the K-12 school years aimed at preparing students for bioscience careers.

Seed money. Recent initiatives include Connecticut’s creation of a $5 million BioSeed Fund, which invests up to $500,000 in early-stage companies and Kentucky’s $5 million Natural Product Fund. North Carolina created a Life Sciences Industry Revenue Bonding Authority to finance biomanufacturing equipment and lab fit-outs.

Some state programs already have a record of success in assisting bioscience companies. Maryland’s Industrial Partnership Program provided some initial support for development of the manufacturing facility for MedImmune’s $1.6 billion Synagis, which prevents a respiratory disease in infants, and Martek Bioscience’s additive for infant formulas, which helped the company generate $114 million in revenue in 2003.

How living things work. The biosciences incorporate a range of industry sectors that rely on insights into the way living things work. The five major sub-sectors are:

* Agricultural feedstock and chemicals;

* Drugs and pharmaceuticals;

* Medical devices and equipment;

* Research and testing; and

* Academic health centers, research hospitals and research institutes.

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