NYT piece questions race for biotech biz

At this year's BIO conference in Atlanta, 27 states (and many more countries) put themselves on display with the hope of building biotech clusters in their region. Some of these states, such as Massachusetts and California, already have many of the world's leading biotech hubs. But other states are just getting into the game, and they're offering massive government-sponsored programs with attractive benefits to lure biotech companies.

But biotech is a risky business, notes the New York Times, and even though states are willing to put the money up to back it, they may not be successful. Several factors have contributed to the success of established biotech hubs that will be difficult to replicate in other areas. Cities like San Diego and Boston have a wealth of experienced executives who know the ropes when it comes to drug development and approval--a resource that's vital in order to get a drug approved. "Most of these states probably don't stand much of a chance to develop a viable biotech industry," Gary P. Pisano, a Harvard Business School professor, tells the Times. "You can always get a few top people," Mr. Pisano said, "but you need a lot of critical mass."

Another challenge? Biotech companies don't employ all that many people. In fact, only 43 biotech companies employ more than 1,000 people in the U.S, notes the Times. That's far fewer jobs than what would be created by traditional manufacturing. And just because a drug is developed in one area doesn't mean it will be manufactured and commercialized in the same place.

The best way to succeed is to expand on the strengths your region already possesses, explains BIO vice president Patrick Kelly. For instance, don't make a major bid to attract drug manufacturing facilities if you already have several institutions in the region that focus on clinical trials. Biotech hubs are more likely to flourish when leverage existing expertise.

States will experience varying levels of success with their various biotech bids. But the hope of drawing high-paying, environmentally-friendly jobs will keep the market for biotech business competitive.

- here's the NYT article

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