The life sciences sector in Ohio continues to stay above tide in a turbulent economic sea, according to a recent report compiled by BioOhio (Columbus), a non-profit focused on accelerating the growth of bioscience.

"We're quite optimistic [bioscience] is certainly going to weather the storm better than other industries," John Lewis, vice president of Bio Ohio, told Medical Device Daily.

The detailed report, which is the third such report of its kind, revealed that the economic impact of Ohio-based bioscience companies represented 15.7% of the state's total economic output, or $148.2 billion.

BioOhio breaks down the definition of the bioscience industry into three different integrated sectors: those include commercial biosciences entities, hospitals and healthcare providers and medical colleges. The commercial bioscience sector alone accounts for $33.8 billion overall economic impact and 50,100 direct jobs in 2007, up from $27.3 billion and 48,485 direct jobs in 2006.

Further details of BioOhio cites R&D as the top employment sector (12,415), while agricultural biotechnology contributed the largest direct economic impact ($10.7 billion) in 2007. Medical device and equipment manufacturers directly employed 9,757 Ohioans.

The results of the data come as no surprise to Bio Ohio, said Lewis, and fit more in line with Ohio's long history with the bioscience sector.

"We would say that nothing has taken off, we would say that the bioscience sector is big and has been here for a long time," Lewis said. "Ohio has been at the heart of the manufacturing base. We've has a long history and an incredible supply chain."

Most of Ohio's bioscience companies are located in the northeast region of the state, which includes the Cleveland area, Akron, Canton and Youngstown.

According to Bio Ohio, as of December, 1,141 bioscience-related entities were operating in the state. While company launches and relocations explain some of the 39.5% increase since last year's count (818), the expansion is mostly attributable to a more thorough census of organizations.

For instance, 636 Ohio companies are FDA-certified to manufacture medical devices and 88 facilities in the state are FDA-certified to manufacture pharmaceuticals. BioOhio determined that nearly half of these companies are actively involved in the value chain of at least one commercial bioscience product.

"Once companies (outside of Ohio) realize what is here, they are generally stunned," Lewis said. "Companies here can get devices through the regulatory path sooner, they can get devices to market sooner and the supply chain here is tremendous."

The report shows the buzz coming on and that between 2004 to 2007, an average of 66 new companies began operation in Ohio each year. In 2007, Ohio welcomed 60 bioscience organizations by way of new company launches or companies establishing their first facility in the state, including AcelleRX Therapeutics (Cleveland), Akebia Therapeutics (Cincinnati), Freedom Meditech (Cleveland/Toledo), and Traycer Diagnostic Systems (Columbus).

Ohio is part of the Midwest, one of the fastest-growing regions in the country for med-tech companies. In 2007 investments for start-ups in the region toppled slightly past the $1 billion mark according to data provided to Medical Device Daily from BioEnterprise (Cleveland) a consortium that is designed to support the growth of bioscience companies (Medical Device Daily, July 23, 2008).

Ohio itself had nearly $84 million in investments by the first half of 2008. The only state with higher investments in the Midwest was Minnesota, which stood at $106.4 million, BioEnterprise's report shows.

Ohio continues to be a hotbed for bioscience expansion, as Battelle (Columbus), a non-profit research and development organization, reported that it was going to invest more than $200 million in central Ohio to add, construct, and renovate manufacturing, office, childcare and laboratory facilities. Battelle said that it would create more than 200 new, high-paying science and research jobs and that overall, the total economic output in the region stemming from its investment is estimated to total more than $450 million.

Lewis said that the state was fortunate to have Battelle making such an investment, in a time when the economy is strained and other industries are looking toward reductions in staff and restructuring rather than expansion.

"The bioscience space is in a better place along with alternative energy and we're weathering the [economic] storm strong," Lewis said. "We're not laying off like some other industries and in some instances like in the case of Battelle, we're actually seeing some expansion."

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