Demographic Shifts Challenge Long Island Biotech Development, Economist Says
MELVILLE, NY — Population changes pose a formidable challenge to the development of a biotech cluster east of New York City in suburban Long Island, an economist told an audience of industry professionals and vendors at a recent conference.
The region comprising Nassau and Suffolk counties is struggling to retain educated young adults priced out of the region by its sky-high housing costs and other expenses, said Pearl Kamer, chief economist for the Long Island Association. She cited the US Census Bureau’s American Community Surveys for 2000 and 2005. Over that five-year period, Long Island lost 66,000 adults ages 25 to 44.
While these adults are moving out, Kamer said, they are being replaced in the island’s population by poorer immigrants with less of the education and skills sought by biotech companies and research institutions. While Long Island’s population rose less than 6 percent between 1980 and 2000, the region’s percentage of foreign-born residents jumped 72 percent.
“Our option is to make sure that recent immigrants, whether legal or illegal, get the education and training they need to become taxpaying citizens, and make a real contribution to our economy. To do otherwise is really short-sighted,” Kamer said. She spoke during “Long Island’s Workforce in 25 Years, Preparing Now for the Changes Ahead,” a panel held as part of the 2007 Life Sciences Summit held at the Hilton Long Island/Huntington hotel June 14. The summit was hosted by the Long Island Life Science Initiative and the Center for Biotechnology at Stony Brook University.
In answer to a BioRegion News question after her remarks, Kamer maintained the population shift should not stop Long Island biotechs from growing in the region since biotech is growing in other areas of the nation with expensive housing.
“It will be harder, but we have to look at who are our competitors — San Jose, California, Route 128 in Massachusetts. If you look at their housing costs, they’re just as high if not higher,” Kamer said. “If we come up with the talent, we can build a biotech cluster.”
She cited the rising cost of housing on Long Island. According to the Multiple Listing Service of Long Island, the median price of a home on Long Island was just under $500,000 in Nassau and just under $400,000 in Suffolk. Over the year ending in May, Nassau prices rose slightly while Suffolk prices dipped.
But many universities that drive biotech activity on Long Island pay at least partial housing costs to attract faculty members, so Long Island’s life science industry should be less affected than other industries in the region by the dearth of affordable housing, said Marty Cantor, director of the Long Island Economic and Social Policy InstituteatDowling College,in an interview.
“On Long Island, I don’t think [attracting new workers] is going to be too much of a problem. Having said that, we’re talking about a very small part of the Long Island economy,” said Cantor, who served as Suffolk County commissioner of economic development from 1988 to 1992.
Long Island accounted for 28 percent or more than 11,500 of New York’s 41,190 biotech jobs as of 2004, when the state’s Empire State Development Corporation last published a detailed study of the industry’s presence in the state.
A greater challenge for Long Island biotech, he said, was the type of jobs being created. He said immigrants new to the Island aren’t likely to take many of the new biotech jobs being created because the cluster has many more research jobs requiring advanced education and skills, rather than manufacturing or other lesser-skill jobs.
Senate Panel Raises FY 2008 NIH Budget to $29.9 Billion
The Senate Appropriations Committee set a $29.9 billion budget for the US National Institutes of Health for the federal fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, under a bill approved in June.
The Senate panel’s spending falls $200 million above the $27.7 approved June 7 by the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. The Senate appropriations budget for NIH also falls $1 billion above the $28.9 billion set by president Bush in his proposed $2.9 trillion budget for FY 2008.
Bush has threatened to veto portions of the budget exceeding his proposed spending amounts. He has defended the move as necessary to his goal of eliminating annual budget deficits by the 2012 fiscal year. Bush is also looking to assuage fiscal conservatives, who have criticized the president in recent years for presiding over an explosion of federal spending he has blamed on the post-9/11 anti-terrorism effort, including the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“If we have to go to the president’s level, it would decimate programs. It’s an irresponsible budget the president proposed, and that’s what we’ll be working to convince both houses of Congress that they need to override,” Jon Retzlaff, director of legislative relations for the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology,told BioRegion News.
That work will continue July 9 when the House Appropriations Committee chaired by Rep. David Obey (D-Wisc.) marks up the Labor-HHS-Education budgets. The full Senate is expected to take up the budgets later this month, Retzlaff said.
Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development Invests In Bacilligen
Bacilligen, an early-stage biotechnology company in Rockville, Md., has accepted a $50,000 investment from the Challenge Investment Program fund, part of the Maryland Venture Fund overseen by the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development.
Bacilligen said it will use the funding to advance its three technology platforms and more quickly bring to market treatments and vaccines for the oncology and infectious disease markets, as well as advance a rapid biologics manufacturing system.
Challenge Investment Fund provides up to $150,000 in financing for small start-up technology companies to cover a portion of the initial costs associated with bringing new products to market. Companies are required to match the state funding they receive. To qualify, a company must have no more than 25 employees and annual sales revenue of $1 million or less.
Memphis Bioworks Foundation Lauded for Workforce Development Innovation
Memphis Bioworks Foundation has received the 2007 Innovator Award for Tennessee from the Southern Growth Policies Board,a regional public policy think tank based in Research Triangle Park, NC.
The foundation was honored for its development of facilities and resources for bioscience businesses, researchers and entrepreneurs on the 10-acre UT-Baptist Research Park. Completion of the research park is estimated to take ten years and will be constructed during six phases on land donated to Memphis Bioworks in 2001 by Baptist Memorial Health Care. That year, the foundation was established to position Memphis as a center for the research, development and commercialization of biomedical technology.
Construction began in February on the research park’s first building, a regional biocontainment lab co-developed by University of Tennessee Health Science Center and the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease.
The foundation also co-founded Tennessee's first charter school, the Memphis Academy of Science and Engineering, which currently enrolls 550 students in grades six through 10.
Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt presented the award to Bioworks president Steven J. Bares at the opening session of the Southern Workforce Summit conference in June.
PharmaNet Development Group Opens 160-Bed Clinical Facility in Toronto
PharmaNet Development Group, a Princeton, NJ, provider of global drug development services, has opened a new Phase I clinic in Toronto, as well as new offices in Brussels, Belgium, and Milan, Italy. In addition, the Company has relocated its Zurich, Switzerland, office to allow for future growth of its staff.
The new clinical facility in Toronto is approximately 40,000 square feet and contains four clinical units that can accommodate a total of 160 beds. The new facility will join two Canadian clinics that PharmaNet operates in Montreal and Québec City.
The Brussels, Milan and Zurich offices serve clients conducting late-stage clinical development programs in these regions. The Brussels office, which opened in May, has a staff of five. The Milan office, which opened in June, has nine employees and supports other regional staffers. Twenty-six employees work from the new Zurich office.
“In support of the continued growth in demand for clinical development services and the trend towards more large, global studies, we are opening additional office locations and clinics to intensify our presence in the region and meet the needs of our clients around the world,” said Jeffrey McMullen, PharmaNet’s president and chief executive officer, in a press release announcing the openings.
UCB Undertakes $5M Expansion of US Headquarters
Belgian biopharmaceutical giant UCB will undertake a $5 million headquarters expansion for its US subsidiary UCB Incorporated in the Cobb County community of Smyrna, Ga. The expansion was announced June 28 by Gov. Sonny Perdue during a trade mission to Brussels.
Established in 1995, UCB’s US headquarters already employs 400 workers in research and development as well as administration. The company will expand an existing building on its 44-acre campus on Lake Park Drive.
UCB develops pharmaceutical and biotechnology products for central nervous system disorders, allergy/respiratory diseases, immune and inflammatory disorders and oncology. The company employs more than 8,400 people in more than 40 countries.
Barrier Therapeutics Establishes $12M Credit Facility
Barrier Therapeutics, a Princeton, NJ, pharmaceutical company specializing in dermatology products, today announced that it has received a $12 million senior secured credit facility from Merrill Lynch Capital. The company said it will use the credit available under the three-year revolving loan facility to finance the growing working capital requirements of its commercial operations.