Blog post by Chris Frew
Chris Frew is CEO at Workforce Genetics, a leader in life science recruiting and employer branding, and president of BioBuzz Media, the region’s premier biotech industry news, media & events platform for the BioHealth Capital Region. The mission of BioBuzz, for the past nine years, has been to build a stronger, more connected biotech workforce in our region. Frew has more than a decade of experience successfully leading teams, projects and corporate strategy within, with a particular expertise in Life Science recruiting and marketing. He is a BioHealth Capital Region native and a graduate of Towson University.
The biohealth industry is one of the most important within Maryland’s high-tech economy. It is also an industry that is often misunderstood. Locally, it is frequently overshadowed by industries like cyber and government contracting. However, around the world, it is the biohealth industry that has put Maryland on the map.
NOT YOUR AVERAGE INDUSTRY
When I speak with people about biohealth, they frequently imagine Ph.D.’s and lab coats. However, those jobs account for less than 25 percent of the total jobs that make up this robust field of innovators. Biohealth companies employ a wide range of highly educated and skilled employees. They include: scientists, engineers, manufacturing professionals, computer and data science professionals, business, financial operations and administrative professionals.
Collectively, the industry has an average annual wage that is over $98,961 (2018 BIO Industry Report). With 2,000+ new biotech jobs projected in 2019, and an additional 7,000+ by 2026, the biohealth field presents tremendous opportunity for Marylanders.
Maryland, and the Biohealth Capital Region (MD/DC/VA), is currently ranked 4th among US biopharma hubs (GEN Magazine), coming in behind Boston, San Francisco and New Jersey/New York, but many here in the industry feel that it has the potential to be number one.
HOW MARYLAND CAN GET TO #1
I’ve spent my career in the biohealth field as head of numerous organizations, including BioBuzz Media, a trade publication for the Biohealth Capital Region. I also have had the honor of serving as the biotech co-chair for WeWorkForHealth Maryland where I’ve helped educate lawmakers on the importance of this field for Marylanders and for citizens across the globe.
So, why would the world care about biohealth in Maryland, and why should you?
No other place in the world has, and possibly will ever have, the unique collection of assets that reside here in Maryland.
It all starts from a foundation of over $5 billion in annually funded biomedical research taking place at National Institutes of Health or our world class research universities through NIH funding. That research is then developed, commercialized and manufactured into new medicines at over 500 biotech companies that call Maryland home. Those companies don’t have to travel far for regulatory approval and reimbursement of those medicines because it’s all done right here at the Food and Drug Administration and CMS. It all happens here, in a span of less than 50 miles from Bethesda to Baltimore.
OUR INDUSTRY LEADERS
Several companies are leading this industry in Maryland, include homegrown Paragon BioServices, who is rapidly expanding its workforce by more than 200 this year, and building new state-of-the-art biomanufacturing facilities. They are working with 20 of the top 30 industry leaders across the globe to apply their unique expertise in gene therapy development and manufacturing to help produce brand new therapies and potential cures.
Other companies like Kite, a Gilead Company, have relocated to Maryland to build its U.S. R&D and manufacturing center and hire hundreds of new employees to produce its personalized T-cell cancer therapy. Kite happens to be one of only two companies with such cell therapies approved by the FDA. U.K.-based Autolus, Inc. also chose Maryland as its U.S. headquarters and manufacturing center to produce its t-cell cancer therapies, once approved.
Numerous Maryland-made companies like American Gene Technologies, REGENXBIO and NexImmune are also applying novel technologies to develop medicines that have the potential to cure HIV, rare diseases and various cancers.
From being the first to map the human genome more than 20 years ago, to now leading the world in advancing several next generation fields of medicine such as regenerative medicine, cell and gene therapy, the biohealth innovations happening right here in Maryland are making the treatment and potential cures for previously unmet medical needs around the world.
The future of medicine is happening right here in Maryland, and the rest of the world is watching and waiting.
New laws can help to make Maryland a biopharma industry leader, download the Maryland Chamber’s Biopharma Policy Report with the top five from 2019.