The biotechnology and life science industries are thriving in Maryland. Companies small and large are developing life-saving medical discoveries, creating jobs and helping to raise our standard of living to enviable heights.
Consider the evidence. In 2011, life sciences directly accounted for 3 percent of all jobs in Maryland, with 71,600 employees in the industry. These positions paid average salaries of $91,000 — 76 percent higher than the state’s average. Maryland boasts the fifth-highest concentration of such jobs nationally.
With election season looming for Maryland voters, it is important we acknowledge that government policy has been a big catalyst for this growth. More importantly, the candidates we nominate June 24 in primary elections — and whom we elect this November — will have a big say in whether Maryland builds on this success or squanders it away.
Indeed, our formidable cluster of technology companies is not pre-ordained. States around the country are rapidly transforming their business development efforts to lure these dynamic companies and their highly educated, highly compensated employees away from Maryland.
Candidates, take note. Should you be elected, the policy choices you make will help determine whether some of the most sought-after technology companies in the world choose to grow in Maryland or not. There are three ways the next governor and general assembly can help advance the state’s biotech and life science industries:
First, improve what we offer. When choosing a location for his or her company, today’s entrepreneur doesn’t just look for office space. They look for a jurisdiction that understands the risk entrepreneurs take and boasts a policy climate that encourages innovation, collaboration and investment.
To keep Maryland ahead of competing jurisdictions, Maryland policymakers must partner with industry and the higher education system to modernize the full cycle of services offered to technology entrepreneurs. Gone are the days when a real estate-centric incubator model successfully serves a growing company. We must build new models that offer a broader suite of services for innovators, from investment resources and mentoring to networking and access to operational expertise.
Second, policy makers must push for health-care coverage that supports the use of new medicines. If biotech firms are not confident that insurers will cover a new breakthrough treatment, there is less incentive to pursue costly new lines of research.
Lastly, we must improve the Food and Drug Administration’s approval process for new products. A new analysis from the Manhattan Institute estimates that making the drug approval process more efficient could reduce pharmaceutical costs by nearly $900 billion a year, while also helping more drugs come to market — a victory for patients and industry alike.
Getting our industry to this point has taken a lot of work. The fruits of this labor can be seen in the BioMaryland Center, the Maryland Venture Fund and robust tax incentives, such as the Biotech Tax Credit and the R&D Tax Credit.
But we must not take our foot off the pedal. Across the country and around the globe, there is fierce competition for talent in the biotechnology and life sciences industry. Our next governor and general assembly need to ensure that this industry will continue to play a critical role in our region.
At the Tech Council of Maryland, we hosted a forum for Maryland’s gubernatorial candidates in May to give every candidate, regardless of party, the opportunity to lay out their vision for advancing the biotech and life sciences ecosystem. The unanimous, bipartisan support these candidates offered our industry is a testament to our industry’s growth potential.
The outcomes of the primary and general elections remain to be seen, but the importance of the bio and life sciences industries is clear. We look forward to working with Maryland’s incoming leadership to ensure that our state continues to reap the benefits of a vibrant bio and life sciences industry.
Philip D. Schiff is chief executive of the Tech Council of Maryland, a trade association for bioscience and technology companies.