• WisBusiness

Thursday, June 21, 2012

 2:09 PM 

Wisconsin firms make connections at BIO 2012


By Bryan Renk

BOSTON -- BIO 2012 recently completed its conference and trade show in Boston - it is billed as the world's largest meeting of its kind for the biotechnology industry.

With more than 15,000 attendees representing 48 states and 65 countries meeting over a four-day span there is a always a lot of activity generated and this year was no exception.

One of the Wisconsin delegation businesses had more than 60 partnering meetings; this was typical of the Wisconsin-based bio-businesses that attended.

The delegation was led this year for the first time by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation and the Wisconsin pavilion had a modern, high-tech look coupled with cutting-edge technology.

Also, for the first time in cooperation with BIO, the WEDC was able to put together remote partnering meetings within the trade show using Cisco's "TelePresence" system for companies not able to attend in person. Both of these activities were very successful in supporting business development in Wisconsin.

Over the last few years we have continued to see growth in our industry. Even in tough economic times, our industry's average salary was close to $70,000. The economic impact of these businesses on Wisconsin is nearly $7 billion and the taxes they pay totals more than $614 million.

The world is paying attention to what we're doing in Wisconsin. The June issue of Genetic Engineering News listed Wisconsin in the top 15 for U.S. biotechnology clusters. Another June report, sponsored by PhRMA on clinical trial research, concluded that Wisconsin is doing 9 percent of all clinical trials in the United States.

CTEN (Clinical Trials Education Network of Wisconsin) also attended BIO to promote this new data as part of its mission of to educate the public on the role of clinical trials and their importance. This network is one of only two in the nation.

BIO's annual report, compiled by the Battelle research group and released Tuesday, reinforced what we already know here in Wisconsin: the biosciences industry is doing well and growing.

BIO has now been doing this for 10 years and was able to look at the trends from 2001 to 2010 in addition to focusing on what has happened to the industry since the recession. Wisconsin was one of the states that grew in jobs for the biosciences during the recession years, with job increases in the sectors of drugs and pharmaceuticals, medical devices and equipment, and research, testing, and medical laboratories. The state has an above average concentration in medical devices and equipment in addition to bioscience-related distribution.

The report noted that direct employment by the bioscience industry is close to 31,000 jobs with growth of 10.8 percent from 2001 to 2010, and 5 percent growth during the recession years of 2007 to 2010. All this, while Wisconsin's total private sector lost jobs at a rate of 6.5 percent during the same period.

What this means is that Wisconsin has a true intellectual and economic engine here that is capable of creating new ideas, new businesses, new jobs and new economic growth – not growth in our state at the expense of attracting jobs away from another state.

All of the above supports the continued need to have all the stakeholders in Wisconsin support an industry that is based on innovation: trying to derive new cures for some very difficult diseases, improving the way we produce food, and searching for new ways to power our economy.

-- Renk is executive director of BioForward, a state association that represents Wisconsin's bioscience industry, which includes 600 bioscience-related businesses.

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