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Around the Regions: April 24, 2009

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GeorgiaBio, Selig Center Release First Economic Impact Study of State's Life-Sci Industry

The first-ever economic impact study of the life sciences industry in Georgia was released earlier this week by GeorgiaBio, the Peachtree State's life sciences industry group, in association with the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia's Terry College of Business.

The 2009 Shaping Infinity report concluded that Georgia's life sciences companies contribute substantial economic activity to the state, noting that one out of every 68 jobs in Georgia owes its existence to the life sciences industry and university research. According to the study, Georgia's life sciences industry and research at the state's universities are responsible for:

• A total 62,033 jobs statewide.

• $17.3 billion in annual economic impact.

• $517 million in tax revenues for state and local governments

The new study marks the fourth consecutive annual report issued under the title Shaping Infinity, and highlights the growth of Georgia’s life sciences industry since 2005.

The report also includes an article by Gov. Sonny Perdue, and an Industry Insight section featuring articles by Georgia Department of Economic Development Commissioner Kenneth Stewart, Solvay Pharmaceuticals President and CEO Stephen Hill; Georgia State University President Mark Becker; Georgia Center of Energy Innovation Director Jill Stuckey; Georgia Institute of Technology’s Mark Allen, vice provost for research and innovation; James Meindl, director of the Nanotechnology Research Center; Dan Brown, vice president and general manager of Quintiles' North American laboratories; and Andrew Cunningham, executive director of Quintiles Southeast Clinical Development Services.


Push for State Budget Cuts Phases Out UW Med School's Clinical Lab Science Program

The University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health will no longer be accepting students into its Clinical Laboratory Science program, which is being phased out through the end of 2012 as a consequence of Gov. Jim Doyle’s call for reductions in the UW System, the UW student newspaper Daily Cardinal reported.

But Lisa Brunette, a UW spokesperson, downplayed the budget-cutting push as a factor in the closing, telling the newspaper that Doyle's office made no official request to take action in budget cuts: “The decision was based on several factors, including the fact that this educational program is available at other Wisconsin campuses. We are deeply appreciative of the incredibly strong and consistent support from Governor Doyle for all of our school’s missions.”

She added, however, that UW "contemplated the question that all public schools are now facing — how to cope with the national economic downturn in the best way possible."

In his 2009-2011 biennial budget proposed in February, Doyle cut funding for the UW System by $174 million as part of a package of measures to plug a $5.4 billion deficit in the state's budget. Lawmakers are expected to pass Doyle’s budget by the end of their session, which ends in June, the newspaper reported.

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The 80-student program will finish training current students until they finish their undergraduate curriculum. With the phaseout of the program, UW will save $560,000 a year from its approximately $502 million budget, according to the Daily Cardinal.


Budget Woes Cloud Future of Maryland Venture Fund

The Maryland Venture Fund, a state Department of Business and Economic Development program that recently invested $450,000 into early-stage life sciences and other technology companies, faces an uncertain future due to the state's budget squeeze and the economic upheaval that has all but frozen the capital markets, according to the Washington Business Journal.

The $450,000 was invested in three Rockville, Md., companies — including Innovative Biosensors, a startup formed to commercialize a technology allowing environmental detection of biothreat pathogens. The newspaper reported that it was not clear if more deals would be completed this fiscal year, which ends June 30, let alone the 2012 fiscal year that starts on July 1.

The venture fund consists of two programs, the Challenge Investment program and Enterprise Investment Fund. The venture fund — which will be funded at $2 million in fiscal 2010, which starts July 1 — allows startups to obtain capital, in return for generating additional private financing on their own. Like other state programs, the venture fund has been caught in the state spending squeeze that Gov. Martin O'Malley and legislative leaders have blamed on dwindling tax collections due to the economic upheaval.

But the venture fund has been without a director for eight months, and could run out of funding by the end of fiscal 2010, despite the assumption that the fund will receive another $1.2 million in returns and royalties, the Business Journal reported. While the venture fund has been funded through the state’s general fund in the past, its annual budget now comes from returns on past investments in companies that were sold or went public years after receiving state money.

DBED Secretary Christian Johansson, who previously served as a managing director of the Baltimore private equity firm Continental Equity, has said his priorities include boosting the level of venture investing in Maryland — but told the newspaper that the venture fund's future hinges on how effectively the state can demonstrate the program's value to lawmakers and the public.


Life Sciences Leaders Help Extend 'We Work for Health' Campaign to Washington State

Leaders from the life sciences and other industries, academia, government, and community groups have joined to extend the national "We Work for Health" life-sci industry promotional effort into Washington state.

The We Work for Health campaign also announced the results of an Archstone Consulting study on the biopharmaceutical industry's economic impact in the Evergreen State — employment of about 20,000 people earning more than $1.6 billion in combined wages. When indirect jobs supported by the industry are included, the job figure swells to more than 67,000 jobs, paying average wages of $81,499, compared with $42,178 for other sectors.

"We Work for Health will provide a voice for this crucial segment of our economy and the family-wage jobs it represents," Bob Drewel, executive director of the Puget Sound Regional Council and one of five We Work for Health co-chairs, in a statement.

Supporters of the campaign include the Washington Biotechnology and Biomedical Association, and its president Chris Rivera, another We Work for health co-chair. Other co-chairs include Elson Floyd, president of Washington State University; Rogers Weed, director of the state Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development; and Lee Huntsman, executive director of the Life Sciences Discovery Fund.


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New York Gov. Paterson Inks Joint Economic Commission Agreement with China's Jiangsu Province

New York state and China's Jiangsu province have marked the 20th anniversary of their sister-state relationship by signing a Joint Economic Commission Agreement designed to promote increased business activity in the life sciences, alternative-energy "clean" technology, financial services, information technology/nanotechnology and education.

One provision of the agreement will establish a biotech- and talent-sharing exchange program, through which Jiangsu scientists will travel to New York for education in drug molecule design, gene engineering, protein engineering, and stem cell research. The accord also calls for China to establish a Jiangsu Province Representative Office in New York for economic and technical cooperation.

"I am confident that over time it will help New York State firms create jobs by gaining access to one of the only global markets that is growing at this time," New York Gov. David Paterson said in a statement.


Biotech among Industries Projected to Help Ireland's County Louth Meet 12,000-Job Goal by 2015

The public-private Louth Economic Forum said biotechnology is among industries that Ireland's County Louth can count on to create 12,000 new jobs by 2015. The new jobs will be needed, according to the forum, because Louth’s overall population is projected to grow to almost 190,000 over the next six years.

At an event marking the launch of the forum, Dermot Ahern, Ireland's minister for justice, equality and law reform, also cited sustainable energy, financial services, and logistics as industries likely to join biotech in growing the fastest through 2015, and thus generators of the jobs sought by Louth, SiliconRepublic.com reported.

The report also cited other sectors with significant scope for growth — such as food and drink processing, logistics and distribution, retailing and e-retailing, electronic government services, and tourism.

The Louth Economic Forum is led by Padraic White, a former managing director of Ireland's Industrial Development Agency.

The study consisted of a countywide analysis — as well as specific proposals for the communities of Ardee, Drogheda, and Dundalk — and a blueprint for how County Louth should target its economic activity. The study was carried out by Indecon International Economic Consultants for Louth officials.

Alan Gray, managing partner of Indecon, said at the event that the economic plan takes account of the economic slump that has gripped much of the world since 2007.

“The business leaders we consulted while preparing this strategy are certainly determined to seize these opportunities, rather than rolling over in the face of the recession. County Louth must now be prepared for the upturn when it comes."


UK's BioIndustry Association Welcomes Budget Measures to Support Bioscience

The UK's BioIndustry Association said in a statement that it welcomed the introduction of a £750 million ($1.1 billion) Strategic Investment Fund for biotechnology and other emerging technologies, announced by Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling in the budget he submitted to Parliament earlier this week.

The fund is designed to promote R&D, and harness commercially the UK's base of science. "The BIA is encouraged to see indications of support for companies in these challenging times," BIA Chairman Clive Dix said in a statement.

The association added in the same statement: "This could make a significant contribution to supporting and building a successful and sustainable bioscience sector in the UK. The BIA is currently seeking further information on the mechanism for the fund and the amount accessible to bioscience companies."

The government also announced it would review whether, and in what form, it could increase the supply of long-term growth capital to small and medium sized businesses, in order to address gaps in growth finance and risk capital. In addition, the UK will consider changing tax policy to encourage additional commercialization of intellectual property and enhance its economic competitiveness.


The Scan

Dropped Charges

The US Justice Department has dropped visa fraud charges against five Chinese researchers, according to the Wall Street Journal.

More Kids

The Associated Press says Moderna is expanding its SARS-CoV-2 vaccine study to included additional children and may include even younger children.

PNAS Papers on Rat Clues to Human Migration, Thyroid Cancer, PolyG-DS

In PNAS this week: ancient rat genome analysis gives hints to human migrations, WDR77 gene mutations in thyroid cancer, and more.

Purnell Choppin Dies

Purnell Choppin, a virologist who led the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, has died at 91, according to the Washington Post.