On September 10, amid much fanfare and accompanied by a who’s who of Maryland politicians, Israeli defense electronic systems maker ELTA North America cut the ribbon for its new manufacturing facility in Fulton, Maryland. The company plans to increase their local workforce from 9 to 100 over the next four years.
This is great news for the state. These are not just jobs; they are manufacturing jobs. To a greater degree than other economic endeavors, manufacturing provides quality jobs for a broad range of professional and skilled labor – managers, scientists, engineers, line workers, facility workers, purchasing and logistics specialists and administrators.
Despite this great news, as a pharmaceutical industry professional I couldn’t help but feel a pang of jealousy. While Maryland is indisputably one of the leading states in life sciences (and a force globally), most of the employment (and attention) in the sector here is focused on research, not manufacturing.
There is nothing wrong with being a leader in life science research. Maryland is home to over 400 life science companies and 50 federal research institutes. Jobs in bioscience R&D are high-paying, and the rewards are great for the companies that discover successful therapies. But unlike manufacturing, research and clinical-stage enterprises employ relatively few workers and the jobs produced tend to be weighted significantly towards scientists and other highly-educated professionals. This does not carry the broad economic benefit that manufacturing can.
Despite a vast pool of talent, facilities and infrastructure, Maryland struggles to convert the therapies developed here into drugs manufactured here. Too often, our successful research is exported elsewhere for manufacturing via licensure, acquisition, off-shoring or other economic drivers.
The news isn’t all bad; after all, we have HGS(GSK), MedImmune, BD Diagnostics, Emergent BioSolutions and Qiagen, among others, making successful products within our borders. There is contract development and manufacturing at Paragon Bioservices, Lonza, Pii and numerous smaller players. But with 400+ companies providing research solutions, we can and should leverage more of it into production within our borders.
How do we do a better job of turning “Developed in Maryland” into “Made in Maryland”? There is no single panacea, and this is not a question solely for government. In later posts, I’ll explore the roles of government, industry, academia and ourselves as bioscience professionals in promoting our manufacturing capabilities and claiming a larger share of this economic sector.
How would you propose increasing bio/pharma manufacturing in Maryland? Please share your thoughts and ideas.