Annual Battelle Numbers Shows Growing Startup Community in Illinois

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The layoffs seen in the life sciences industry have been slightly offset, by a sharp rise medtech employment in Illinois – meaning job growth in the highly paid biosciences sector has remained generally steady among the nation’s many biotech clusters, according to a Battelle report released at the BIO International Conference.

The nonprofit’s report showed a slight decrease in biosciences employment between 2001 and 2012 However, there has been a 7% increased in the number of establishments in Illlinois.

The report divvied “biosciences” into five sectors – agricultural feedstock and chemicals; drugs and pharmaceuticals; medical devices and equipment; research, testing and medical laboratories; and bioscience-related distribution.

This one is obvious: The drugs and pharmaceuticals sector has struggled of late, with steady job loss – between 2001 and 2012, Illinois faired better than the industry average in the US. Illinois drugs and pharmaceuticals sector only lost around 4% employment as compared to the national average of 10%. llinois has an 11 percent greater concentration of jobs in the biosciences relative to the national average.

The decline is partially due, the report said, to the growing trend of drugmakers outsourcing research to CROs. Subsequently, research, testing and medical labs – described at BIO by Battelle Managing Director Mitch Horowitz as “really the up and coming sector” – grew a whopping 28.1 percent from 2001 – 2012 nationwide.

Twenty-nine metro regions join Illinois and specialize in at least three of the above biotech sectors, with the obvious ones like Boston and the Bay Area complemented by more surprising clusters like Knoxville, Tenn. and Kalamazoo, Mich. Indianapolis was the only metropolitan area that had a specialized employment concentration in all five of these sectors in 2012.

The numbers reflect a growing and strong startup community in Illinois. Despite the reduction in jobs Illinois had a 7% growth in number of establishments, far outpacing the national average of -.05%. The state’s medical device subsector is driving that change with 11 percent job growth since 2007. Illinois has a large academic bioscience R&D base, with $1.5 billion in 2012 expenditures placing it among the top tier of states. The state also is among the leading states in NIH funding, bioscience venture capital investments, and bioscience-related patents issued since 2009.

The report also highlighted the premium salaries earned by bioscience workers – they receive wages 80 percent higher than other private sector employees. Drug and pharma employees make the most bank, with an average salary of $106,576 nationwide, though the average biosciences employee earned $88,202 in 2012. By contrast, the standard private sector employee made $49,130 that year. Illnois continues to lead the national average.

The same old stressors have haunted the biosciences industry for several years, and continue to remain problematic: Federal funding continues to trend south, and concern remains whether biosciences companies can attract venture dollars to develop innovative products, Horowitz said.

The report is the sixth in a biennial series from Battelle and BIO. It tracks jobs in the bioscience industry state by state. Download the full report here.