Mali R. Schantz-Feld (March 2011)
The national bioscience climate continues to heat up, even in the light of the cold, hard facts of the recent economic downturn. According to Battelle/ BIO (Biotechnology Industry Organization) State Bioscience Initiatives 2010, even during the recession, the bioscience industry is a positive generator of net income across each subsector, whether (1) research, testing, and medical labs, (2) agricultural feedstock and chemicals, (3) medical devices and equipment, or (4) drugs and pharmaceuticals." A dozen states - California, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Texas - have a large and specialized bioscience base in at least one of the four sectors.
The study advises that the attraction and growth of the bioscience and pharmaceutical industries takes innovative economic development policies that encourage bioscience development initiatives; a focus on agricultural biotechnology, bioenergy, and bioproducts industry subsectors; implementation of programs that build R&D capacity and advance commercialization of research discoveries; improving access to early-stage capital; and tax policies that support the niche.
PricewaterhouseCoopers' "Quarterly Recovery" report, which discusses venture capital and life sciences investments, noted that the top-five regions receiving life sciences venture capital funding during the first quarter of 2010 were San Francisco Bay, Boston, San Diego metro, Orange County, and the Research Triangle.
Biosciences as an
California's bioscience companies run the gamut from well-established giants to entrepreneurial start-ups.
"California is the place for bioscience because of our capacity to continually reinvent ourselves. We create our own opportunities and the venture capitalists are there to support us. Take, for instance, Amyris, the synthetic biology company (based in Emeryville), which invented a technique to manufacture an antimalarial drug, and now leads the biofuels sector," says Douglas Crawford, Ph.D., associate director of the San Francisco-based California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences (QB3). QB3 is a consortium of more than 200 laboratories from the University of California campuses at Berkeley, Santa Cruz, and San Francisco. The multidisciplinary institute provides proof-of-concept funding, start-up incubator space, and educational programs.
Dr. Crawford explains that the industry has a nationwide potential for growth: "The problems we're trying to solve in healthcare and energy are huge. Bioscience is transforming itself into an engineering discipline, capable of quantitative analysis. The combination virtually dictates growth."
"For global biopharmaceutical companies, it is important to have an R&D presence in major markets," says Terry Hermiston, Ph.D., vice president U.S. Biologics Research at Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals and head of its new U.S. Innovation Center that opened in San Francisco in January 2011.
"When you look at medical science in the United States, California stands out as a leader with institutions that attract the most NIH (National Institutes of Health) funding," Dr. Hermiston continues. "Bayer's U.S. Innovation Center has a strategic imperative to collaborate on early research with young life science firms and academic researchers. The site we selected in San Francisco puts us in the heart of California's fastest-growing life science hub - with more than 20 young biotech companies and adjacent to UCSF's Mission Bay campus. We will expand our partnering along the West Coast and throughout the U.S. from this strategic location."
Bayer Healthcare Pharmaceuticals also has facilities in New Jersey and Washington State.
World's Largest Research
and Testing Cluster
Data from the North Carolina Biotechnology Center (NCBC) cites that 58,000 North Carolinians are employed at 538 life science companies. From 2009 to 2010, the state's life science sector actually added 4.1 percent more jobs despite national economic woes. A study for the NCBC by the Battelle Institute notes that each bioscience job in the state creates more than four additional jobs.
Besides its reputation as a global leader in vaccine production and bio-manufacturing, the state also harbors more than 100 contract research and testing organizations; NCBC notes that it is "believed to be the largest cluster in the world." Hiring is under way to fill 350 positions for the new $1 billion Novartis vaccine factory in Holly Springs, and Research Triangle Park is home to the U.S. headquarters of GlaxoSmithKline, which employs about 5,000 people statewide.
Offshore firms also have established satellites in North Carolina, such as Dublin-based Syngenta, Netherlands-based DSM Pharmaceuticals, Denmark-based Novo Nordisk and Novozymes, and Tokyo-based Eisai.
Another niche in North Carolina is alternative, medically related uses for tobacco. Montreal-based Medicago has broken ground on its $42 million facility in the Research Triangle Park that will manufacture vaccines using recombinant viral-like particles grown in the cells of tobacco leaves. Targacept, a publicly held, clinical-stage pharmaceutical company in Winston-Salem, creates drugs that target some of the same receptors as nicotine, but in positive ways, to combat various diseases.
New Jersey's biotechnology sector remains optimistic, despite a few acquisitions and other industry-related issues that affected jobs in the pharmaceutical sector. A survey released in July 2010 by Ernst & Young and BioNJ noted that the number of employees at New Jersey biotechnology companies increased 50 percent to 15,000 over the past three years, not including big pharma and medical device companies. A major incentive to this growth is the Edison Innovation Fund, which provides various resources including R&D funds, financing and direct equity investments, access to venture capital, technology centers, incentive and work force training grants, and incubators and Innovation Zones.
Pennsylvania touts strong employment in drugs and pharmaceuticals, research, testing, and medical laboratories. Academic R&D in the biosciences and funding from the NIH are highly concentrated in the state, with per capita figures well above the national averages, according to the Battelle/BIO report.
One bioscience company born and nurtured in Pennsylvania is Morphotek, Inc. In 2000, Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania (BFTP/SEP) gave $50,000 and business advice to the biopharmaceutical company that develops therapeutic antibodies for treatment of cancer and inflammatory and infectious diseases. An expansion followed the next year, thanks to another $150,000 boost by BFTP/SEP. Then, in 2007, the firm was acquired by Eisai Co. for $325 million. In 2010, Morphotek began construction on an $80 million, 60,000-square-foot pilot plant that manufactures drugs for clinical trials. Over the course of a decade, employment grew from four people to more than 170, with additional hiring expected soon.
The U.S. Department of Labor says that the biotechnology industry is one of the nation's fastest-expanding sectors, expected to grow an average of 1.5 percent through 2018. The potential is great, both for a healthier outlook for these companies and for the effect that their innovations have on the global community.