By Mike Flaherty and Tom Still
CHICAGO – Wisconsin’s growing biotechnology sector was hurt by the recession, and the state’s total of 24,694 biotech industry jobs still only represents a fraction of the nation’s 1.4 million jobs, according to a new report on the state of the bioscience industry Monday at 2010 BIO International, the world’s largest gathering of the biotechnology industry.
But the new “State Bioscience Initiatives” report by Battelle Memorial Institute and BIO noted that Wisconsin’s biotech jobs have grown by nearly 16 percent since 2001 and the state is one of relatively few making headway in all four biotech sectors historically tracked by the report.
The report, which ranked Wisconsin in the top two-fifths of all states in bioscience and biotechnology activity, also credited Wisconsin for its commitment to academic research and a growing venture capital market to help take scientific ideas from the lab bench to the marketplace.
It noted that the Madison metropolitan area is one of only two metro areas in the nation, with Bloomington, Ind., being the other, with “specialization” in all four areas – agricultural feedstock and chemicals, drugs and pharmaceuticals, medical devices and equipment, and research and testing.
“Venture capital invested in state bioscience during the last six years totaled $295 million, led by pharmaceuticals and human biotechnology,” the report noted. “The 2,187 patents issued to Wisconsin inventors over the same six-year period were well diversified, led by surgical, and medical instruments and biotechnology.”
Since 2004, academic research and development funding in Wisconsin has risen by almost 21 percent, with $440.1 million of the state’s biotech research funding coming from the federal government’s National Institutes of Health.
Despite a struggling economy, the nation’s bioscience industry still added 19,000 jobs since 2007, the report said.
“Not every biotech company made it through the storm,” said Jim Greenwood, president and CEO of BIO, noting that 50 publicly traded went bankrupt last year. “But there is much good news. Biotech stocks outperformed virtually every other index in the first quarter of this year. The markets have come back, but biotech has come back faster and stronger.’’
In addition to the Madison area, the report noted that Sheboygan, Oshkosh-Neenah and Milwaukee-Waukesha have strengths in one of the four sectors. It also took notice of Wisconsin’s investment tax credit laws and R&D tax credits, as well as its strong per capita rankings in academic R&D spending (9th) and production of people with bioscience higher education degrees (also 9th).