Md. bioscience industry a rising force for growth 40,000 work in state on new technologies luring more investors


October 07, 1998|By Mark Guidera | Mark Guidera,SUN STAFF

Maryland's once nascent bioscience industry has emerged as a fast-expanding force in the state's economic growth, employing more than 40,000 statewide at 200-plus companies and institutions and paying wages averaging almost $50,000 annually, a new report on the industry has found.

The report also says that investment in Maryland companies has become significant in generating new wealth in the state. That includes $900 million in venture capital and other investments in privately held Maryland bioscience companies, and 15 biotechnology investors whose holdings in Maryland companies are each worth more than $1 million.

The 60-page report, a first-ever official look at the industry and its economic effect in Maryland, makes no proposals for supporting the growth of the bioscience industry in Maryland, but is intended to give industry and government officials an overview of the vitality of the industry, said Robert Eaton, executive director of MdBio Inc.

Among the findings:

Industry employment, once largely concentrated in government agencies and universities, is more diverse today. Private industry accounts for 36 percent of jobs, while universities account for 22 percent. Government agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health, remain the largest such employer with 42 percent.

The industry employs about 40,000. (That is about 1.8 percent of total state employment, which numbered more than 2.23 million in 1997, Department of Labor and Licensing figures show.)

The average annual pay of workers in companies making or developing products is $49,500; workers at companies which provide manufacturing, testing and other bioscience services are paid an average of $40,100 annually. By contrast, state Department of Labor and Licensing figures show the annual average wage of Maryland workers in 1997 was $31,772, or $611 weekly.

A growing number of Maryland companies have lucrative research and marketing alliances with some of the powerhouses of the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries.

Fifteen of Genetic Engineering News' list of "100 Molecular Millionaires" earned that status from investments and holdings in Maryland companies. They range from IGEN International Inc. founder and chief executive Sam Wholstadter ($71.2 million) to Chesapeake Biological Laboratory Inc. chief technical officer and board member Narlin Beaty ($1 million).

MdBio Inc., a Frederick nonprofit organization that supports biotechnology initiatives, prepared the report along with the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development and the Institute for Policy Studies at Johns Hopkins University.

"Sometimes I think there is this misimpression that Maryland's biotechnology industry is made up only of small emerging companies," Eaton said. "What this report shows is that we have 24 publicly held biotechnology companies headquartered in ,X Maryland, and a lot of outside investment that has flowed into the state through those and other companies."

Martha Connolly, DBED's senior biotechnology industry representative, said the report also highlights how dynamic and diverse the industry has become.

"It's not all that long ago that most of Maryland's bioscience was largely basic research oriented and only found at the big research institutions and universities, like NIH and Hopkins," Connolly said. "Today we have almost 300 companies, many of them already with products on the market."

Those products range from small, privately held Cera Products Inc.'s oral rehydration formula for hospital patients to publicly held MedImmune Inc.'s new vaccine for an infant respiratory virus.

Connolly said she believes the most significant potential for economic growth in the state from the industry can be found in the growing number of experimental products in development.

The report found companies and institutional researchers working on a wide range of potentially dramatic drugs and other treatments and diagnostics, from treatments for stroke and Alzheimer's disease to treatments to regenerate blood, bone and tissue.

The study found more than 35 treatments and diagnostics, developed by Maryland-based companies or researchers, in the clinical development stage, meaning they are being tested in humans.

Connolly said she was struck by how several industries were concentrating in Maryland, namely biotechnology-based vaccine research and gene therapy, and the study of genes and their functions, known as genomics.


Maryland's bioscience payroll

Sector .......... Employees ... Average salary ... Total pay (millions)

Companies ....... 14,490 ...... $46,800 .......... $678.1

Federal labs .... 17,080 ...... $52,100 .......... $890

Universities .... 9,050 ....... $45,700 .......... $413.6

SOURCE: MdBio Inc.

Pub Date: 10/07/98

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