Innovative Programs in Life Sciences Help Fuel South Carolina's Economy
See how this cutting-edge industry is helping to drive innovation throughout the state.
With more than 650 companies operating in 43 of the state’s 46 counties, the fast-growing life sciences industry is a driving force behind South Carolina’s innovation economy, delivering an $11.4 billion annual economic impact and creating more than 4,800 jobs between 2011 and 2018.
Fueling the industry’s growth are numerous resources and assets, including a pro-business environment, dedicated industry organizations, like the South Carolina Biotechnology Industry Organization (SCBIO), an increasingly robust angel investor network, a skilled talent pool and an enviable quality of life.
SCBIO, a major asset to fledgling and established life sciences companies, offers expert business advice to entrepreneurs and startups. It also advocates on behalf of the industry to state and local governments and serves as a vital networking tool for member businesses.
“One thing that sets us apart is we’re exclusively devoted to the multifaceted life sciences industry,” says Sam Konduros, president and CEO of SCBIO. “Life sciences is broken into six segments, ranging from pharmaceutical and biotech to medical devices, bio ag, digital health and testing labs. And if you took just the pharmaceutical segment alone and compared it with the med tech/med device segment, just those two segments are as different as automotive and aerospace in terms of their unique needs, so having an organization that’s 100% dedicated to this industry has been a major asset for the state.”
Hard at Work: South Carolina Attracts Talent
Another major advantage for startups and relocating and expanding life sciences companies is the state’s more than 60 colleges and universities, including research heavyweights University of South Carolina, Clemson University and the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) in Charleston. The state’s research universities are a pipeline for talent and serve as incubators for new discoveries.
“The talent pools of the universities are the state’s most crucial asset for this talent-demanding sector, ranging from bioengineering and advanced materials graduates to exercise physiologists and clinicians to geneticists and experts in molecular medicine and bioinformatics,” Konduros says. “The universities are also loaded with research infrastructure that can often be accessed by industry, ranging from electron microscopy labs to bench and hood spaces within well-equipped wet labs to gene sequencers both within the universities themselves as well as affiliated health science centers and health care providers, like Greenville Health System and MUSC.”
Talent development is what led Columbia-based The Ritedose Corp. (TRC) to build a 150,000-square-foot facility on the Midlands Technical College (MTC) Enterprise Campus in 2018. TRC produces inhalation products, eye drops, ear drops and oral liquids. The new facility takes advantage of MTC’s training program and, in turn, offers internships to MTC students.
“TRC chose to set up our facility at the MTC Enterprise Campus because it is close geographically, and it strengthens our relationship with Midlands Technical College,” says Jody Chastain, TRC’s president and CEO. “Having the benefit of a technical college with a willingness to structure curriculum for our industry makes sense. We’ll be working with MTC to design courses that will be applied toward training and hiring the skill set that will continue to facilitate TRC’s success.”
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Research at Work
A key attraction for relocating companies is access to skills at MUSC, which, as the state’s largest biomedical employer, carries out research projects worth more than $250 million a year.
“MUSC is home to cutting edge research and next generation therapies, several of which are being advanced by our burgeoning startup community and on-site medical device accelerator,” says Jesse Goodwin, MUSC’s chief innovation officer. “We also recognize that workforce development is central to the growth of the biosciences industry, and MUSC, along with all the state’s colleges and universities, plays a key role in preparing students with the skills and knowledge to be ready to fill those jobs.”