Momentum for Florida biotech builds
By Lou Ortiz
The biotech industry is blooming in Florida and institutes in Miami and elsewhere are creating the momentum, according to a University of Florida study.
While the US biotech sector grew by 5% over the past five years, the Florida "industry has grown by 42%... with nearly 200 biotechnology companies," according to the university's new report "Florida's BioPulse: A Snapshot of the Bioscience Industry."
Florida's life science industry is in the southeast in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Boca Raton; the southwest in the Tampa area; in the north central region in Gainesville and Alachua; and the east central region in the Orlando area.
The report says more than 10% of the nation's biotech companies are now in Florida, and "those institutes located in Miami, Jupiter, Port St. Lucie, Orlando, Tampa and St. Petersburg have added to the existing research infrastructure to create the momentum seen today."
"Venture capital funding for the biomedical industry in Florida far outpaced the national scene," according to the report. "Investment dollars in 2011 surged 200% over 2010 levels to nearly $87 million, while life science venture funding nationwide… increased just 21% during the past year."
Florida also did better than the nation in job growth in the industry between 2001 and 2010, with employment increasing 19% compared to 6.3% in the entire United States.
At least 61,000 work in the biotech industry in Florida, according to state's industry association, BioFlorida.
"During that time, the bioscience industry grew by 6.4%, adding more than 96,000 jobs," according to the university's report. "By comparison, total employment for all private sector industries in the US fell by 2.9%, losing more than 3 million jobs."
The report says most jobs in biotech were in research, testing and laboratories.
"The bioscience sector continues to be a source of high-wage jobs," the report says. "The average bioscience job paid $82,697 in 2010, $36,000 more than the average private sector job."
"The increased number of biotechnology companies and growth of biomedical venture capital investments are promising indicators of the long-term success of bioscience in Florida," David Day, director of the university's Office of Technology Licensing and the Sid Martin Biotechnology incubator, said in a statement.
"As the industry grows it will continue to spur innovation, entrepreneurship and economic development," Mr. Day said.
The bioscience industry has a presence in 34 states and Puerto Rico in at least one of the subsectors, including drugs and pharmaceuticals, medical devices, research, testing and medical laboratories, and bioscience-related distribution.
Major state investments in the biotech industry began under former Gov. Jeb Bush in November 2003.
The state has invested $579 million in the Scripps Florida campus in Jupiter. And the Burnham Institute in Orlando has received $310 million.
Scripps has created 415 jobs and Burnham 190 through last year, according to BioFlorida.
"Florida is positioned to be a global hub for groundbreaking life sciences development," Mr. Bush said as part of the University of Florida report. "The investment Florida made beginning in 2003 sparked what is now a growing flow of venture capital investment into biotechnology research."
"Now, we are moving ahead of national trends," he said, "to become a destination for biotechnology discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship."
The university's report was released during the industry's annual conference in Boston.
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