Building a regional biosystem: State leaders to weigh in at upcoming event

Oct. 2, 2019

This paid piece is sponsored by South Dakota Biotech.

Wonder what other states are doing to attract and support the biotech industry? Four experts are about to tell you.

A panel at the South Dakota Biotech Summit on Oct. 8 will feature representatives from Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota as they share best practices and industry challenges.

“It’s always incredibly valuable for me to hear from other state leaders in this industry, so we wanted to bring that opportunity to our annual summit,” said Joni Johnson, executive director of South Dakota Biotech, who will represent her organization on the panel.

“My fellow industry leaders and I are always energized to learn from one another and to realize how much we have in common. It naturally lends itself to collaboration on many fronts, from advocacy to business development.”

Other panelists will include Jessica Hyland, executive director of IowaBio; Shaye Mandle, CEO of Minnesota-based Medical Alley; and Rob Owen, executive director of BIO Nebraska.

In Iowa, “biosciences are seen as a pillar of the state’s economy,” Hyland said.

“There is a lot of momentum, energy and awareness around these industries in Iowa from an economic development standpoint. That’s paired with an awareness of workforce needs and how to fulfill those. Additionally, as would be expected, we have a bioscience industry tied to agriculture, but there is a diversity beyond that as well, with activity in human health and medical devices.”

Iowa launched the nation’s first Renewable Chemical Production Tax Credit program, which IowaBio was instrumental in passing legislatively in 2016. The program awards up to $10 million annually to incentivize Iowa-based companies to produce biochemicals.

IowaBio, which is in its 25th year, also awards scholarships and teacher stipends to encourage STEM careers.

“Workforce challenges are huge,” Hyland said.

“Iowa is not a fast-growing state — in fact we’re the only state that hasn’t doubled in size since its creation. We also have an aging population and challenges making sure STEM positions are filled. We need to make sure we’re educating students on opportunities in STEM fields to strengthen that talent pipeline and to put them in touch with Iowa companies so they stay in-state.”

In Nebraska, Owen sees similar hurdles.

“The biggest challenge facing Nebraska’s biotech economy is workforce development,” he said. “I don’t believe Nebraska is alone with this challenge. Growing and developing a workforce are imperative if Nebraska’s biotech economy is to grow and prosper. Bio Nebraska is helping address this workforce issue through education and awareness.”

The state’s bioscience economy is solid and has potential to grow, he added.

“Nebraska is home to medical device manufacturers, enzyme producers, ethanol manufacturers and world-class cancer researchers, just to name a few. In addition, Nebraska’s biotech economy is comprised of multinational corporations all the way down to the one-person startup,” Owen said.

“One area ripe for expansion is industrial biotech, which is the use of microorganisms or enzymes to produce goods for industry, including plastics and chemicals. Bio Nebraska looks forward to helping grow this sector over the coming years.”

All panelists agree that conversations such as the one coming up at the South Dakota Biotech Summit are critical for cultivating a regional bioscience economy.

“If a Nebraska company is looking for a specific service or product that is not available in Nebraska, it would be great to look in South Dakota or surrounding states for help instead of going to the coasts,” Owen said. “Growing and promoting the biotech economy in our region should be a team effort.”

Hyland agrees.

“We aren’t as visible as some other places in the country,” she said. “We need to unify our voices to highlight our assets and work collectively where we can.”

To learn more and register for the South Dakota Biotech Summit, click here.

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Building a regional biosystem: State leaders to weigh in at upcoming event

Wonder what other states are doing to attract and support the biotech industry? Four experts are about to tell you.

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