As the General Assembly mulls possible cuts to the N.C. Biotechnology Center’s budget, a new report from RTI International finds that global health-related work contributed $3.7 billion to the state’s economy.

Citing data from 2015, RTI and the Triangle Global Health Consortium point out in “The Global Health Sector’s Contributions to the Economy of North Carolina”:

  • The state receives more than $1.2 billion a year in health-related research funding
  • Global health work supports 26,000 jobs
  • Average pay in those jobs is $62,000
  • Employees earn more than $1.6 billion in wages
  • Those figures don’t include the impact on other aspects of the economy, such as the need for goods and services
  • Global health work also generates $182 million in state tax revenue and $433 million in federal taxes

North Carolina’s life science industry is one of the nation’s largest with the Triangle traditionally ranked among the top five biotech and related industry hubs. The RTI-Global Health Consortium report reflects data included in other reports. Earlier this year, a Biotech Center-TEConomy Partners report noted a much bigger impact in considering a wider data set.

RTI-Global Health Consortium report abstract:

“North Carolina’s global health sector produces significant humanitarian and economic benefits both globally and locally. As a national leader in global health, North Carolina houses more than 220 organizations and institutions that work in more than 185 countries to save lives and improve health. Major universities; nonprofit organizations; faith-based groups; government agencies (including the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and offices of the Environmental Protection Agency); and biotechnology, pharmaceutical, and medical technology companies all come together in the state to improve the health of people around the world.

“Global health transcends boundaries and requires collective solutions that emphasize improving health, reducing disparities, and protecting against global threats. From mitigating emerging disease outbreaks like Zika and Ebola to developing early HIV/AIDS treatments and increasing access to safe drinking water and sanitation around the world, North Carolina institutions are at the forefront of saving lives.

“By developing new medicines, vaccines, technologies, and services, local researchers, businesses, and advocates are improving the health of communities around the world, including those in North Carolina, while also benefiting the state’s economy.”

The full report is available online.

Overall economic impact grew by some 34 percent over the past eight years to more than $86 billion last year.

More than 650 life science companies are located in the state, and the N.C. Biotech Center notes on its website that employees are among the state’s best paid at an average salary of $78,000.

Budget warning

RTI’s CEO Wayne Holden used the report to caution against budget cuts at the state and federal level.

“It is essential that North Carolina’s congressional delegation is aware of the importance of the global health sector to the state’s economy. Deep budget cuts are proposed to a number of agencies performing work in global health. Right now, RTI is on the ground in the Democratic Republic of Congo working with the CDC to fight the Ebola outbreak,” Holden said in a statement. “We already knew how critical development assistance and global health programs were to fighting extremism and protecting our national security. Now, we know these cuts could have dire effects on the North Carolina economy as well.”

The Biotech Center, which is the hub around which the North Carolina life science industry centers, faces a possible cut of 5 percent in the budget now being debated in Raleigh. Federal cuts also are possible as Congress begins debating the proposed Trump Administration budget.

RTI and the health consortium call North Carolina a “leader in global health, housing more than 220 organizations, companies, and academic institutions that work in more than 185 countries improving the health of people around the world and enhancing United States national security.”

The consortium is hosting a roundtable talk with N.C. Congressional members and staff in Washington on Wednesday to discuss the life science contribution to the state’s economy.

“This report highlights North Carolina’s leadership in global health and the significant role that the global health sector plays in the state’s economy,” said Claire Neal, executive director of the Triangle Global Health Consortium, in a statement. “The global health sector here in the state saves lives and reduces health disparities around the world, while also creating jobs, catalyzing innovation, and bringing revenue back to the state.”

The Eleanor Crook Foundation, Duke Global Health Institute, IntraHealth International, FHI 360, North Carolina State University, and UNC Institute for Global Health & Infectious Diseases also supported the report. RTI, which is based in RTP, is a global, independent non-profit research organization.