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Report: Indiana boasts four nation-leading life sciences clusters

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A new report shows that the areas around each of Indiana’s research university campuses employ nation-leading clusters of life sciences workers. Bloomington, Indianapolis, Lafayette and South Bend all ranked highly in the latest nationwide analysis of the life sciences industry by the Biotechnology Industry Organization, or BIO.

Those cities are the homes of Indiana University, the IU School of Medicine, Purdue University and the University of Notre Dame, respectively. Those campuses account for 98 percent of all R&D expenditures in Indiana, according to federal data.

Yet in spite of those employment clusters, Indiana’s Achilles heel continues to be relatively poor rankings on research, development and venture capital activity. Indiana did not rank in the top 10 nationally in those categories.

The Indianapolis metro area was the only MSA in the nation that could claim an outsized concentration of workers in all five life sciences sectors measured by the BIO report, which was conducted by the Ohio-based research firm Battelle. Those sectors are agriculture chemicals and feedstocks, drugs, medical devices, biosciences labs, and bioscience-related distribution services, also known as biologistics.

Using 2012 data, the report found that the Indianapolis area employed 25,194 workers in the life sciences.  The area employed 1,599 in agricultural chemicals, 9,995 in drugs, 5,220 in medical devices, 3,998 in research and medical labs, and 4,382 in biologistics—all of which measured at higher proportions, compared to the Indianapolis area’s entire workforce, than the average across the country.

Lafayette and South Bend had an outsized concentration of workers in four of the five areas. And Bloomington had a concentration of workers in three of the five areas.

Those four cities were among only 29 nationally that claimed a similar concentration of workers in at least three of the five life sciences sectors. North Carolina was the only other state with four separate metros among those top 29.

"Our diversity has always been the key to our success in the biosciences," said Kristin Jones, CEO of the Indiana Health Industry Forum, which is the Indiana affiliate of BIO.

Indiana’s overall employment in life sciences fell from 2010 to 2012, to a bit less than 58,000 workers. Much of that decline came in the pharmaceutical sector, where Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly and Co. has trimmed its staff and outsourced numerous workers, sometimes to firms that are not classified as being in a biosciences industry.

Life sciences jobs in Indiana pay nearly $88,000, on average, which is more than twice as much as the average wage across all private-sector employers in the state.

“Given the dynamic nature of the life sciences industry, Indiana has stayed strong in critical areas like employment, production, and economic impact,” said David Johnson, CEO of Indianapolis-based BioCrossroads, a life sciences business development group. He noted that the life sciences industry has an estimated economic impact of $55 billion, with annual exports of $10 billion.

Statements from both BioCrossroads and the Indiana Health Industry Forum acknowledged both Indiana’s employment strengths and its R&D funding weaknesses.

“Without substantial investment and financial support for new ventures now, there will be fewer therapies and cures available to patients in the future,” said Elaine Lee, an engagement officer at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology who is chairwoman of the Indiana Health Industry Forum board of directors.

In its statement, BioCrossroads said it is trying to help grow Indiana’s low-to-middling rankings in R&D funding by launching the Indiana Bioscience Research Institute.

Part of the issue is low levels of funding from the National Institutes of Health. In 2013, Indiana instutions received more than $185 million in NIH funding, or $28 per Hoosier resident. Nationwide, however, NIH funding averages $70 per resident.

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  • Venture Capital Deficit
    IMHO, Indiana will always struggle to produce more high paying life science jobs until it addresses the lack of capital in our state. A lack of money available to young entrepreneurs and start-ups has retarded growth in our state and driven talent to other parts of the country. That being said, I don't see how this issue gets fixed with the state ponying up some cash in to order to establish its own fund (if that is even constitutional) or provide incentives for pricate investors to park capital here. Any thoughts?

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