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The Biotech Century

The biosciences industries are booming - and more locations than ever are sharing the wealth.

Apr/May 07
(page 3 of 3)

Global Opportunities
The life sciences hold just as much appeal outside the United States as within, and activity is just as feverish. To the north, it's huge business in Canada. For example, Ontario boasts the continent's third-largest concentration of biotechnology firms, along with operations for many of the world's biggest manufacturers of pharmaceuticals and medical devices. Pharmaceutical employment tops 16,000, while the medical device workforce is more than 22,000.

The life sciences are not immune to the market forces that drive other kinds of manufacturing to markets less costly than America, according to Jones. Some manufacturing has migrated to Mexico, along with such places as Singapore and China. One study suggests that China's $20 billion pharmaceutical business will enjoy double-digit growth at least through 2010.

The Indian pharmaceutical industry is reported to be growing at a rate of nearly 9 percent annually. Low costs and impressive infrastructure are attracting development there, according to Barath Shankar Subramanian, a research analyst with Frost & Sullivan.

In Europe, Italy has a long history of both research and manufacturing in life sciences. Most of the world's biggest pharmaceutical names are among the 400 drug and biotech companies operating there and spending more than €1 billion on R&D. Germany, France, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Denmark are also biotech leaders. Among the many other European examples, North England has also emerged as a significant cluster of biotechnology/pharmaceutical/medical device development.

Also, says Subramanian, Eastern Europe appears to be on the way up. "It's still at an early stage, but it may emerge as one of the hot spots," he says. Pharmaceutical companies from elsewhere are eyeing acquisitions in such places as Romania, and Asian firms see Eastern Europe as a gateway through which they might gain access to the bigger Western European market, he says.

Subramanian sounds one cautionary note, though: Many blockbuster drugs will be coming off patent and may be hard for pharmaceutical giants to replace. That means manufacturers of generics stand to enjoy significant gains at Big Pharma's expense. On the other hand, there appear to be strong opportunities for smaller, specialty pharmaceutical companies with more focused therapeutic niches.

That said, biosciences opportunity as a whole appears to be sky-high. It's not all that surprising, really, given that people typically value good health above just about everything else, BIO chief Greenwood told those at a recent industry gathering: "There is nothing that we, as people, care about that's more important to us than our health and the health of our loved ones. We will pay to avoid that pain and suffering."

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