• Tuesday, May 04th, 2010

Good news on the biotech front: The biotechnology industry grew, despite soaring unemployment and thousands of jobs shed by pharmaceutical companies during the recession, according to a report presented in Chicago this morning from the Biotechnology Industry Organization.

The U.S. bioscience sector grew 1.4 percent to 1.42 million jobs in 2008, the latest year statistics were available, said the report by research firm Battelle. Meanwhile, the larger unemployment picture was dismal, with nearly one in 10 Americans without jobs.

Biotech had its largest growth in the area of agriculture feedstock and chemicals, a category that grew nearly 5 percent, adding more than 5,000 jobs across the country from 2007 to 2008. Research, testing and medical labs also added jobs, growing by 11,670 jobs, or 2.1 percent during that period.

The only category that saw a loss of jobs was in drug and pharmaceuticals, which shed 7,445 jobs — 2.3 percent of its workforce — from 2007 to 2008.

Still, the biotech industry expects jobs to rebound in the drug and pharmaceuticals category, and expects growth in other areas, given the additional spending coming as a result of the new health care reform law signed by President Barack Obama.

In addition, state and local governments are creating incentives to attract biotech and grow these businesses through taxes and other incentives.

“States and regions are targeting the bioscience sector because it is a source of high-wage, high-skill jobs,” said Mitchell Horowitz, vice president of Battelle’s technology partnership practice.

“But policymakers also realize that biosciences development is not simply about generating economic returns,” Horowitz added. “The great promise of biosciences is its ability to address global problems, from human health to food generation and security to environmental sustainability and clean energy. Bioscience development pays huge social and quality of life dividends for the U.S. and the world.”

The biotech industry is meeting this week in Chicago for its annual business meeting,

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