The biotechnology industry in Maryland, according to the North Carolina Biotechnology Information Center, currently employs 4,000 and generates an estimated $10 million in state, county and local taxes. The Maryland Department of Economic and Employment Development asserts that this could grow to 40,000 jobs and $100 million in taxes by year 2000–if Maryland can maintain its share of the market and if sales within the industry grow 20-fold in 10 years, as anticipated by Ernst & Young in its 1990 report, “Biotech 91: The Changing Environment.”
In order to reach that potential, however, Maryland must make a leap of faith: it must develop the infrastructure to foster the growth of biotechnology companies, including financial and technical assistance. One particularly important element that is needed is production or “scale-up” assistance, to help small firms move from the lab to the marketplace. Because Maryland’s biotech industry is made up of companies that are young and small, their resources are limited; they are not prepared to meet the costly and complex manufacturing and marketing demands associated with anticipated growth in the industry. The consequence is that in order for these young, small Maryland companies to move their products into the market they may have to enter into joint ventures with or be acquired by larger biotechnology or pharmaceutical companies, or hire expensive contract manufacturing firms. Either case is problematic for Maryland because it results in the export of money, jobs and future revenues to companies located in other states and limits the growth of the industry within the state.
But in June 1991, the state legislature took the first step toward that long leap of faith; it voted to fund the design of a bioprocessing plant here in Maryland.
The facility will provide Maryland’s mostly small biotech companies with access to the physical manufacturing facilities they need but can’t afford, and the technical expertise they have not yet developed; it will provide, too, incentive for Maryland’s biotech companies to remain here and for others outside of the state to locate here.
All in all, the facility opens the door of opportunity for the state to help realize the full and bright promise of its own, fledgling biotechnology industry.
The opportunity could not come at a better time.