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Top Five Regions Targeting Biotech Companies

Written by on Wednesday, March 28th, 2007

In case you missed it, The Biotech Weblog recently reported on Fierce Biotech’s release of the Top Five Regions Targeting Biotech Companies in 2007. 

Contrary to what you might expect, Florida–not California–was at the top of the list. 

What propelled Florida to the top of the list?  Fierce Biotech stated as follows:

Florida scored two important coups when Scripps Florida and the Burnham Institute both were wooed here by economic development officials armed with state cash and determined to transform the state by making it a powerhouse in academic research. The Burnham Institute alone garnered $155 million in state support last year for an expansion program and Scripps gained more than $700 million to back its Florida move.

That investment is beginning to pay off. In recent months Scripps Florida signed a $100 million research agreement with Pfizer and saw its first spin-off–Xcovery–take off. The University of Florida, meanwhile, has been cited by the Milken Institute as a leader in the country for its technology out-licensing and commercialization work. And that work is a key contributor to developing startups in biotechnology.

It may take years for the snowball to really get rolling on the commercial side of drug discovery, but Florida has created a blueprint on laying the foundation for a cluster.

Of course, California was not left off the list entirely.  California made Number 3, right after Singapore. 

This is not the first time Florida’s inroads into the biotech industry have received attention.  Prompted by an article written by Richard Krause of Investor’s Business Daily, Seeking Alpha recently wrote:

It all began in 2003 when the Scripps Research Institute of La Jolla, California, was promised by Palm Beach County [Florida] a significant amount of financing to establish a biotechnology research hub in the state. Scripps accepted the proposed $500 million in financing, and initiated plans for a mega biotech site on the Western fringes of Palm Beach County.  .  . .

This much honey tends to attract more bees. Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies lobbied for financing from Palm Beach County for establishing a large research center in Boca Raton. Palm Beach County denied the request, citing the institute’s relatively small level of federal funding dollars. Torrey Pines finally received $100 million from St. Lucie County, about an hour drive north of Palm Beach. Ground breaking for the new site is expected by March.

Burnham Institute for Medical Research also wants a strong presence in Florida, and has so far received over $300 million in state and local incentives to establish a life science research site near Orlando. Not to miss out on the handouts, SRI International of Silicon Valley opened its new marine technology research complex in St. Petersburg. A permanent facility is expected by mid-2008. Almost $50 million has been invested in SRI so far. . . .

According to Seeking Alpha, "[t]here still is room for the biotech industry to grow in Florida, and there are plenty of research institutes, life science companies, intellectual property law firms, and venture capital groups waiting for a piece of the pie."

Will Florida–or any other state for that matter–ever succeed in attracting biotech to such a degree that it will really rival California as a hub for biotechnology?  The elements that have made California such  a success will be very difficult to recreate outside of the state.  Only in California do you have access to venture capital, a highly skilled workforce, and world-class universities–all in close proximity.  While it would be theoretically feasible to build such a community outside of California, it is difficult to imagine that this could be easily accomplished in Florida or any other location. 

As a native of the Southeast, however, I wish Florida the best in its quest to bring build a biotech hub in its state.  While I continue to be a strong supporter of the California biotech industry, nothing would please me more than to see a strong biotech industry emerge in the Southeast.   

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