ATLANTA — The
state’s bioscience innovators highlighted new therapies to save lives at
the Georgia Life Sciences Summit Wednesday in College Park. The
industry survived the recession, and that’s thanks to a need for
healthcare breakthroughs no matter the economy.
When Gov. Sonny Perdue trumpeted the bioscience field five years ago, the potential for jobs seemed limitless.
One initiative called the Innovation Crescent foresaw a Georgia edition of the Silicon Valley running from Athens to Atlanta.
of that early promise hasn’t panned out. For example, job growth was
modest during the Recession. And right now, sequestration is squeezing
the government grants the industry relies on.
among Georgia’s bioscience hubs in Athens, Augusta and Atlanta is up.
And bioscience jobs grew 1.5 percent between 2007 and 2010. By
comparison, employment overall fell 8 percent during that period.
Russell Allen heads Georgia Bio, an industry group. He says the industry is less cyclical than others.
businesses were able to continue to growing to meet the demand of the
population to develop new products and services that help improve and
saving lives,” he said in an interview. "That demand never went away
regardless of the economic conditions.”
Aging baby boomers are
aiding the growth. And Allen says they're interested not only in
technologies that lengthen lives but also those that boost quality of
Wednesday’s summit made clear the breadth of companies in the field in Georgia.
startup on a panel dedicated to new technologies is studying ways to
cure AIDS. Another is experimenting with growing artificial limbs. Still
another is focused on regenerating limbs.
Linda Black is with
SciStem Therapeutics, based at the University of Georgia. She says the
company’s regenerative cell technology may be able to help people at
risk for amputation.
"Imagine combat veterans and Boston Marathon
victims and trauma patients who are pre-amputation and about to lose
their limbs being able to save their limbs because there is a therapy
able to regenerate bone and blood vessels,” she told an audience of
peers and students. "It sounds somewhat futuristic but really these
technologies are in development today.”
Georgia boasts a deep
bench of bioscience agencies and research operations. For example, it’s
home to the Centers for Disease Control. And Georgia Tech, UGA and
Georgia Regents University are aggressively converting home-grown
research into for-profit companies.
According to a survey of the
state’s industry, the average annual salary for a Georgian working in
biosciences in 2010 was $64,000.