LIfe Sciences are Growth Industries
Patriot-News Op-Ed The Patriot-News
By Christopher P. Molineaux
What happens when policymakers and the life science industry come together to develop a strategy for smart investments that address economic competitiveness?
Growth, jobs, and better living for all.
That’s precisely what has occurred in Pennsylvania during the last decade. Public-private partnerships have created a strong foundation for the life science industry, providing millions in loans, grants and other incentives to help attract private capital.
Because of this, Pennsylvania is a hotbed for the innovative life science industry — directly employing more than 79,000 Pennsylvanians and generating $7.2 billion in annual wages.
An example of this growth can be found right here in central Pennsylvania, which is now home to more than 200 established life sciencesA cluster of scientific disciplines concerned with human life and health. Included are many branches of biology (e.g., molecular biology, cell biology) and chemistry (e.g., biochemistry), as well as some areas of genetics, physics and materials science, among others. companies and more than 400 other companies classified as “life-sciences related,” participating in various stages of development of human health-enhancing products or services.
This local impact would not be possible without the strategic vision of our policymakers more than a decade ago, setting the stage for economic growth engines such as the Life Sciences Greenhouse of Central PA and the Hershey Center for Applied Research.
Today, our life science sector is the envy of much of the rest of the United States and the world. From 2001 to 2008, Pennsylvania’s life science sector grew almost five times as fast as the rest of the state economy. But it wasn’t always this way.
In the 1980s and ’90s, Europeans dominated the biomedical sector. In response, American policymakers worked with the leaders from the life science sector to implement a series of reforms designed to encourage innovation and protect intellectual property. The result? The United States took the crown from Europe and became the global leader in the biomedical arena.
But policymakers in Asia and Europe can’t help but notice our success. Now they’re pushing to attract biomedical firms with their own tax and regulatory reforms. To make this situation even more tenuous, the life science industry in Pennsylvania is at an inflection point.
Even though our life science industry is an economic powerhouse, a convergence of factors is limiting the potential growth of the industry in the commonwealth — including longer R&D cycles, unpredictable regulatory and reimbursement structures and an uncertain economic environment.
For Pennsylvania to keep its lead, we know that another round of smart, strategic thinking is necessary to nurture our life science ecosystem through the next decade. In October, the Pennsylvania Life Science Leadership Advisory Council convened around this common goal: Create a strategic plan for Pennsylvania that provides a road map to global leadership in the life sciences.
The council is composed of more than 40 individuals, including key industry leaders, business and health care groups, representatives of the Corbett administration and the co-chairs of the Life Science Caucuses.
Members of the council provided input, and the council identified five high-priority goals:
1. Promote the life science industry as a key driver of Pennsylvania’s economic competitiveness.
2. Ensure continued growth and vitality of the Pennsylvania life science community through ongoing monitoring, evaluation and action of its stakeholders to maintain competitiveness.
3. Support research and development of emerging life science technologies.
4. Seek investment capital to support early and midstage life science companies.
5. Encourage the creation of a tax system that provides a supportive environment for life science and other technology-based industry job creation.
The report is a plan to advance the life sciences over the next decade — and it is not lost that some of these recommendations will face funding challenges in the short term. However, the good news is that some of the proposals are already under way. Others require new public-private partnerships to succeed. Still others call for new private investment as well as resources from the commonwealth.
It also is important to recognize that this report is a living document that requires months and years of follow-through before it can be fully realized. It will evolve as the industry and the environment evolve — and will become a tool for continued action.
But most important, the recommendations delivered from the LSLAC report provide a road map to make Pennsylvania the most attractive place to operate a life sciences company.
With a collaborative effort, highlighted by the work of the council, Pennsylvania will undoubtedly continue its leadership throughout the U.S. and the global economy.