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Biotech, Medical Devices, and Life Sciences Sectors Strong Despite Economy

Economic downturn and health reform uncertainties can't keep the biotech, medical devices, and life sciences sectors down.

Apr/May 10
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• Biosciences keep growing in Ohio, according to a report from the non-profit organization BioOhio. The sector employed 55,465 in 2008, up nearly 20 percent since 2000. The study, conducted with Cleveland State University, counted some 1,253 bioscience-related firms - from new startups to widely recognized brands - operating 1,628 locations in the state.

• In Colorado, biopharmaceuticals employ roughly 14,000 people, and the state is seeking to boost that number. In 2003, public and private partners developed an action plan to grow the life sciences, and the state government and Colorado research institutions increased their investments in facilities and infrastructure in response. In 2008, Colorado launched a $26.5 million Bioscience and Life Science Fund to support research and proof-of-concept projects.

• Iowa benefits from biotechnology activities beyond health care applications, particularly biofuels. The state leads in ethanol production, with an annual capacity exceeding three billion gallons from more than 36 plants. Meanwhile, a $15 million Elevance Renewable Sciences demonstration facility is showing the world how plant oils and poultry can be transformed into jet fuel, lubricants, adhesives, cosmetics, and even candles.

• Oregon officials have found the biosciences to be worth even more than they thought. Research estimates the sector's value at $3.5 billion in direct revenues and more than 13,600 jobs. That makes it more prosperous than Oregon's agricultural sector, forestry industry, and the state's highly regarded wine business.

• Biopharmaceuticals are booming in Washington State, providing direct and indirect employment for about 67,000 people. The state supports life sciences in a variety of ways, including the Life Sciences Discovery Fund, which offers research grants and boosts economic growth. • Nearly 800 biotech, pharmaceutical, and medical device companies call Florida home. The medical device sectors, one of the nation's largest, employs some 20,000 people in the Jacksonville area, Central Florida, and South Florida. Prominent research institutes support the biotech sector, with specialties including therapeutics and diagnostics.

• Indiana continues to beef up its presence in orthopedics. In the small community of Warsaw, several companies generate a combined $11 billion in revenue and fill more than half of the industry's U.S. market share and about a third of the world's need for orthopedic medical devices. "The Warsaw orthopedics community is one of the most robust and concentrated medical equipment development sectors in the world," said David Johnson, president and CEO of BioCrossroads, an Indianapolis-based life sciences industry organization.

So what does the future hold for life sciences? Plenty of life, it seems. Biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, and medical devices haven't been immune from economic woes, layoffs, and dried-up capital markets, but industry leaders haven't lost sight of the promise of innovation.

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