GBC’s Fry: Maryland�s maturing bioscience industry

Don Fry Commentary on WYPR

Maryland’s young bioscience industry is growing up. It’s not yet mature, but significant signs of growth are there.

This spring Baltimore will gain 450,000 square feet of bioscience lab and office space as UMB BioParks’ second building opens in March on the city’s west side, and the first bioscience building at the Science + Technology Park at Johns Hopkins on the east side opens in April.

Counting these two parks and UMBC’s research facilities near BWI airport, our region has added more than 750,000 square feet to its inventory of research park space during the last six years. This begins to fill a basic need for more R&D space that the Greater Baltimore Committee and other advocates identified earlier this decade when we made bioscience industry growth a top strategic priority for our region.

Another 2.9 million square feet will be added when the region’s three research parks are fully developed.

There are other signs that Maryland’s bioscience industry is percolating. Since 1998, the number of bioscience companies in Maryland grew from 218 to 407 and private bioscience employment grew from 14,000 to 23,000.

Last year, Maryland bioscience companies were involved in significant deals, including the $15 billion acquisition of MedImmune, and Alba Pharmaceutical’s $325 million drug development and marketing deal.

We need to remember, however, that despite the presence of a few large companies such as MedImmune, BD Diagnostic Systems, and Martek, Maryland’s bioscience industry is still mostly small firms in earlier stages of growth that are not yet turning a profit. Two thirds employ less than 10 people.

New bioscience companies will be largely home grown – emerging from our research universities. They’ll look to the state and the private sector for support they desperately need to succeed, including tax incentives, seed and venture capital, access to patents, and business mentors.

We can’t take future bioscience growth for granted in Maryland. We must work harder to enact supportive public policies and nurture private-sector entrepreneurship for our young and growing bioscience industry to reach its full potential.

For the Regional Business Report, this is Don Fry, President and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee, for 88.1 WYPR, your NPR news station.