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Around the Regions: February 2, 2009


Report Explores Biomedical Industry in California and Implications for Economy and Public Health

California's biomedical employers grew their combined statewide workforce to 271,000 people, up 3,000 people, or 1.1 percent, from a year earlier — making the industry "a bright prospect for stability and growth and one that can play a key role in state and national economic recovery efforts," according to a report released Jan. 29 by the California Healthcare Institute and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The 2009 Report on California's Biomedical Industry said employers in the medical devices, instruments, and diagnostics sectors accounted for approximately 112,000 jobs, or about 41 percent of the overall total. Biopharmaceutical companies employed the next-largest segment with nearly 80,000, or about 29 percent. The state's academic research centers employed about 42,000 people in life sciences positions for approximately 15 percent of the total. Wholesale trade accounted for more than 32,000 personnel, or about 12 percent of the state's biomedical employees. The laboratory services sector rounded out the overall industry with approximately 5,200 employees, or about 2 percent.

A year earlier, companies making medical devices, instruments and diagnostics employed 113,800, or 43 percent of the industry; biopharmaceutical companies 79,000, or 30 percent; academic research institutions 39,800 people, or 14.9 percent; wholesale trade, 30,000, or 11.2 percent; and laboratory services, 5,100 people, or 1.9 percent.

The state's biomedical companies' revenues for 2007 topped an estimated $74.5 billion, up from $72.8 billion the previous year, but the number of products in the research and clinical test pipeline fell during the period from 953 to less than 900. Industry employees earn an average annual individual salary of $75,000, up approximately 9 percent from $71,300 in 2006, and 80 percent higher than the state's average income of $41,580.

The 2009 California Biomedical industry report is available here.

iBIO Tells Illinois Legislature: Streamline Reviews, Step Up Support for Startups

The head of the Illinois Biotechnology Industry Organization said in a Jan. 30 letter to members that his group's two legislative priorities for this year will be streamlining the state's slow review processes, especially for air and water quality permits; and boosting state support for startups in the life sciences and other technologies.

David Miller, president and CEO of iBIO, termed the review processes "too slow, not transparent, and purely reactive. As a consequence, Illinois is losing jobs to neighboring states, where permits — under the same high environmental standards — that take as many as 500+ days in Illinois can be obtained in 60-90 days."

Miller said that while Illinois has historically done a good job of spinning out startup companies from its global corporations, and drawing many businesses to the Chicagoland region, "the state has done a terrible job at forming, nurturing and retaining startups, in large part because we lack startup-assistance in the form of programs which help small companies stretch their precious working capital.

"As a consequence we lose companies to neighbors and to states like Arizona, North Carolina, Maryland and others," Miller concluded.

He added that iBIO has been working with the Illinois Farm Bureau and other organizations to develop an overall economic development agenda for the state. Miller urged iBIO members to read the organization's Smart Agenda, and submit suggestions via e-mail.

Battelle Study: Colorado 11th in the Nation in Bioscience Venture Capital Investment, with $1.3B

Colorado ranked 11th among US states for bioscience venture capital investment, with $1.3 billion invested between 2002 and the second quarter of 2008, according to the Colorado Bioscience Roadmap 2008, a report produced by Battelle Technology Partnership Practice, and released by the Colorado BioScience Association and Colorado's Office of Economic Development.

"The new report shows us that Colorado is indeed on the right path to becoming a top-ten bioscience hub and pinpoints strategic areas where we need to focus our immediate attention during the next five years to position the bioscience sector as a key driver of Colorado's economy," John Collar, executive director of the Colorado BioScience Association, said in a press release announcing the results.

Those areas are summed up in five strategies recommended by the report: ensure availability of capital for bioscience companies at all stages of their development; create a robust technology-commercialization infrastructure in Colorado to rapidly move discoveries into the marketplace; ensure that Colorado is attracting, retaining, and producing individuals with the skills needed to meet future bioscience workforce needs; promote Colorado's position as a leading bioscience center; and establish Colorado's bioscience future by making a long-term commitment to bioscience industry development.

Improving those areas, the report concluded, holds the best hope of growing Colorado's bioscience sector — which in 2006 accounted for 920 establishments employing 18,000 people statewide.

Collar joined Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter and others in announcing the release of the report during "Bioscience Day at the Capitol," held Jan. 23. The report is an updated version of Colorado's Place in the Sun: An Action Plan to Grow Colorado's Bioscience Cluster, a 2003 report prepared for the CBSA by the national Battelle Technology Partnership Practice organization, and available here.

The complete Colorado Bioscience Roadmap 2008 can be read here.

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TechColumbus Report: Life-Sci/Healthcare VC Investment Tripled in Central Ohio During 2008

Investment in biotechnology and other "healthcare" companies in Central Ohio more than tripled during 2008, rising 201 percent compared with the previous year, according to the 2008 Innovation Capital Report for Central Ohio released last week by TechColumbus, a nonprofit organization chartered with accelerating the area's tech sector.

Ohio is now among the top five states for healthcare investors, the Innovation Capital Report found, given the presence within the Buckeye State of 27 healthcare venture firms. The report, which TechColumbus said will be published later this month, also found overall venture investment in Central Ohio companies grew almost 10 percent last year, despite the economic upheaval that has revered years of growth in venture capital investment nationwide [BRN, Jan. 26; Jan. 19].

Life Sciences Will Generate 'Dramatic Change' for NC's Eastern Region, Official Predicts

A 13-county swath of eastern North Carolina will experience "a dramatic change" during the next two decades due to the growth of biotechnology and life sciences, Al Delia, president and CEO of the economic development agency North Carolina's Eastern Region, said at the second annual State of the Region conference, held at Lenoir Community College in Kinston, NC, according to the Daily Reflector of Greenville, NC.

According to NCER, the region has 20 biotech companies employing more than 5,000 people now. The challenge, Delia told conferees, is to the availability of facilities and recruiting companies to the region.

To that end, Delia said at the conference, a global innovation network has been established, beginning with an organizational meeting in Krakow, Poland, and 10 member countries will begin operations this year. An ECU-Jagiellonian University exchange program is being developed, the newspaper reported.

"We want to put ourselves in a position when five or 10 years from now when those foreign markets decide to invest in North America that they will invest and look at eastern North Carolina first," Delia said. "We've begun to identify those markets, we've begun to market to those countries already. We've built relationships in Poland and Italy. In the coming year you will see us lead recruitment missions to Europe and across the United States and increasing our foreign direct investment."

Keith Crisco, who was recently appointed the state's secretary of commerce by new Gov. Beverly Perdue, said at the conference that companies must adapt to a changing global economy — especially as the state's unemployment rate rose in December 2008 to 8.7 percent, and is expected to climb into double digits this year. Crisco said the state must do a better job of branding and marketing the state to attract jobs, according to the Daily Reflector.

UK Life-Sci Funding Agency Launches £27M Sustainable Bioenergy Centre

The UK's Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council last week announced the nation's largest-ever single public investment in bioenergy research, a £27 million ($39 million) BBSRC Sustainable Bioenergy Centre designed to help the nation replace gasoline as a vehicle fuel with new fuels derived from plants within 10 years.

The BBSRC Sustainable Bioenergy Centre will focus on six research hubs of academic and industrial partners — one each at the universities of Cambridge, Dundee, and York; two at the University of Nottingham; and one at Rothamsted Research. Another seven universities and institutes are involved, and 15 industrial partners will contribute around £7 million of the funding.

The center's research activities will encompass different stages of bioenergy production — from widening the range of materials that can be the starting point for bioenergy, to improving the crops used by making them grow more efficiently to changing plant cell walls. The center will also analyze the complete economic and environmental life cycle of potential sources of bioenergy.

The center "is exactly the sort of initiative this country needs to lead the way in transforming the exciting potential of sustainable biofuels into a widespread technology that can replace fossil fuels," Lord Paul Drayson, the UK's minister of state for science and innovation, said in a statement.

Maryland Opens Trade Offices in Japan, Canada, South Africa, Brazil, and Montenegro

Maryland has opened five new foreign trade offices — one each in Japan, Canada, South Africa, Brazil and Montenegro — designed to help companies based in the state secure overseas business, as well as promote expansion into the state by overseas companies.

The offices will operate on a contingency basis, without upfront use of state tax dollars, and any future funding from Maryland would be based solely on the individual foreign office representatives' ability to attract companies and jobs to the state, Gov. Martin O'Malley's office said in announcing the new offices. The new sites bring to 10 the number of offices maintained overseas by the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development's Division of International Investment and Trade.

The Scan

Sick Newborns Selected for WGS With Automated Pipeline

Researchers successfully prioritized infants with potential Mendelian conditions for whole-genome sequencing or rapid whole-genome sequencing, as they report in Genome Medicine.

Acne-Linked Loci Found Through GWAS Meta-Analysis

Researchers in the European Journal of Human Genetics find new and known acne vulgaris risk loci with a genome-wide association study and meta-analysis, highlighting hair follicle- and metabolic disease-related genes.

Retina Cell Loss Reversed by Prime Editing in Mouse Model of Retinitis Pigmentosa

A team from China turns to prime editing to correct a retinitis pigmentosa-causing mutation in the PDE6b gene in a mouse model of the progressive photoreceptor loss condition in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.

CRISPR Screens Reveal Heart Attack-Linked Gene

Researchers in PLOS Genetics have used CRISPR screens to home in on variants associated with coronary artery disease that affect vascular endothelial function.