The Raleigh-Durham area offers biotechnology companies less expensive operating costs than 32 of 48 cities surveyed by The Boyd Company, Princeton, NJ, a corporate relocation firm.

The North Carolina Council for Entrepreneurial Development collected statistics about the state’s growing biotechnology industry to promote the 12th Annual Biotech Conference at the Sheraton Imperial on Wednesday. The findings present a snapshot of the state’s current biotech standing.

CED President Monica Doss said she is encouraged by North Carolina’s current biotech strengths as indicated by the recent reports but expressed reserved optimism about the future.

“We’ve all been buoyed by North Carolina’s continued inclusion as one of the nation’s top five regional biotech economies, but we find ourselves at somewhat of a critical juncture,” said Doss.

“Smart business and policy decisions that encourage a favorable capital environment, including renewal of the qualified business venture tax credit, are vital to maintain industry leadership; and we’ve got to be persistent in our university and Biotech Center infrastructure investments as well.”

According to the Boyd report, 32 cities cost biotechs more operational cash than Raleigh-Durham. RTP has an annual operating cost for biomedical facilities estimated at $8.72 million. Operating costs at comparative cities ranged from $7.95 million (Montreal) to $12.1 million (San Jose). Other biotech centers with higher operating costs than Raleigh-Durham included San Francisco, Boston, Atlanta, Austin, Chicago and Seattle.

Other findings include:

  • North Carolina’s life sciences industry includes approximately 150 life sciences firms that employ more than 18,500 people.
  • North Carolina has the world’s largest vaccine facility (Wyeth Vaccines); biologics manufacturing facility (Biogen); plasma-based products facility (Bayer); and intravenous solutions facility (Baxter).
  • It also has North America’s largest enzyme production plant (Novozymes), and one of the world’s largest contract biologics manufacturers (Diosynth).
  • North Carolina is fourth in the United States in total research dollars awarded from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and National Science Foundation (NSF). California, Massachusetts and Maryland are the only states that receive more research funding.
  • Despite the state’s success in developing the biotech industry over the past 20 years, competition is stiff and growing from states across the country. California, Michigan, Texas and Virginia are a few of the states investing millions and, in some cases, billions of dollars to retain their existing life sciences companies and attract new investment.
  • The Brookings Institution ranked the Research Triangle among the leading nine regions in the nation for biotechnology because it possesses the two key ingredients necessary for growth: strong research, and the ability to convert that research into commercial activity. The region’s biotechnology patents increased from 27 in the period from 1975 to 1979, to 204 between 1980 and 1989, and 796 in the 1990s.
  • The Triangle receives more than $469 million annually in financial support from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University ranking among the top 15 institutions that receive funding from the NIH (UNC-CH at 13 and Duke at 15.
  • Firms in the Triangle region have 29 life science products in various FDA test phases, targeting diseases ranging from heart disease to cancer.

Biotech 2003: Fusing Science, Technology, and Business Leadership is presented by CED, the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, the North Carolina Biosciences Organization (NCBIO) and the Biotechnology Industry Organization.

The CED says about 700 people have pre-registered for the event.

For information on the Biotech event: