How can states grow their biosciences sectors?

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During the 2023 BIO International Convention, the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) released its seventh-annual best practices report, “The U.S. Biosciences Industry in the States: Best Practices in Innovation, Partnerships, and Job Creation.”

The report was developed in partnership with the Council of State Bioscience Associations (CSBA).

The report “analyzes the latest legislative and regulatory economic development initiatives at the state and regional level that help support the bioscience sector,” explains BIO’s press release.

“At every level of government, public policy has a profound impact on the bioscience ecosystem and its ability to innovate and grow,” says Rachel King, President and CEO of BIO. “This report provides an in-depth guide for how state policymakers can help foster a strong bioscience economy, fuel job creation, and drive an innovative economy in their state.”

Here are four major highlights from the report.

1. Building career pathways for future biosciences talent is crucial.

“Attracting and retaining a continuing flow of educated (Ph.D., MS, BS, AA) and technically-proficient workers is essential to a state aspiring to enhance a biosciences industry presence,” says the report.

Luckily, based on BIO’s (and a number of others’) reports, growth in life sciences education is on the up and up with no sign of stopping.

As BIO’s report observes, “The U.S. Biosciences industry stands out for being a steady generator and source of high-wage jobs.” That economic security has prompted a number of universities and technical schools across the U.S. to expand their life science programs as we have seen with similar reports.

“Illinois continues to grow as a thriving innovation hub with world-class research institutions and top-tier talent for a biomedical research hub that will take medical research to a new level,” says Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker.

2. States and regions are committed to biotech industry stability.

“A stable and supportive public policy framework is vital to industry firms, large and small,” says the report. “It is impracticable, and ill-advised, for any state, city or municipality to miss the value of selective incentives to either hold existing Biosciences companies or attract new enterprises.”

As such, lawmakers and policy professionals have kept biotech industry needs and priorities at the top of their list when it comes to legislative decision-making.

“We will continue to grow Michigan’s economy by creating good-paying jobs for Michiganders while expanding on our leadership in the life sciences and agribusiness sectors,” says Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

Pete Pellerito, BIO Senior Policy Adviser and principal author of the report goes on to explain: “This report confirms the vital role U.S. biosciences companies have in creating jobs and stimulating the economy, and illustrates the continuation of the increasingly-supportive role that state and regional policymakers are playing in company retention and expansion in their locations.”

3. Innovative tax support strategies are on the rise.

Both the private and the public sphere are finding new ways to expand the playing field for biotech startups with early-stage capital. This is especially important as the vast majority of the biotech industry is composed of small and early-stage biotech companies.

“Supportive measures include investor tax credits to spur more early-stage investment in Biosciences companies, and seed funds to bridge the funding gap for companies as they develop and advance their technologies, conduct initial research, and establish proof of concept before attracting larger investments,” says the report.

And this priority has proven to pay off well in the past. “Over a decade ago, (Former) Governor Patrick and the legislature made a bet on life sciences in this state—offering funding and support and leadership to make Massachusetts a leader in biotech,” explains Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey. “Now, the results are nothing short of remarkable.”

4. Universities and research centers continue to be strong partners.

“Thanks to a coalition of industry and university technology transfer groups across the nation that have provided strong support for enhanced federal legislation, including the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980, U.S. colleges and universities continue to be the international leaders in generating cutting-edge basic research and creating companies from that research effort,” says the report.

This finding in the report is especially important as there have been a number of challenges to Bayh-Dole that threaten to undermine its success.

“States have made company formation a high priority, especially policies that encourage full funding of basic research, predictability of patents, and flexible technology transfer, and that provide early-stage funding opportunities and incentives that will serve to stimulate biotechnology innovation,” the report continues.

All in all the findings of the report are clear: investing in biotech pays off and will continue to for years to come.

“BIO and CSBA’s new report serves as a roadmap for economic development in the biosciences industry, showcasing proven strategies and innovative practices implemented by states across the U.S.,” says John Conrad, Board Vice Chair of CSBA and President and CEO of Illinois Biotechnology Innovation Organization (iBIO). “Illinois, in particular, has made significant strides in implementing economic incentives to drive growth in the state’s bioscience sector, generating high-quality jobs, and fostering an entrepreneurial ecosystem that remains essential to the industry’s future success.”

It looks like the sky’s the limit for any and every state that builds a home for biotech.

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