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Although California remains the country's biotech leader, Michigan anticipates that the wind is shifting direction, albeit slowly
Although California remains the country's biotech leader, Michigan anticipates that the wind is shifting direction, albeit slowly. "California and Massachusetts are still the major hubs, but there has been something of a redistribution, certainly in the Midwest, where the cost of doing business is more competitive and the cost of living/quality of life is attractive to employees," says Stephen Rapunaldo, Executive Director of MichBio. "The other thing is there's more of an availability and ready accessibility of investment dollars. I've been contacted many times during the last couple of years by start-ups in California who say they're one in a crowd out there and it's hard to get noticed in front of investors, whereas here it's a smaller pond and that, coupled with the hungrier appetite for new enterprises, means that we become more attractive."
So why would a European company choose Michigan? "It depends on what they looking for," says Rapunaldo. "What we do is facilitate contacts, matchmaking to whatever their needs are. So, if businesses want access to the investment community here we'll give them the appropriate individuals to contact. If they want access to certain subsectors, whether it's chemicals or molecular reagents or cancer therapeutics, we'll point them in the right direction and broker the meetings."
Michigan facts and figures
Rapunaldo is refreshingly honest when faced with selling the State to international business: "Michigan's reputation has taken a bit of a hit because of the economic downsizing in the automotive sector. However, in terms of infrastructure for biosciences, we are extraordinarily strong. We get more academic and R&D funding than, for example, the research triangle. We are the fourth in the country; more than a billion dollars have come here. We have a strong talent pool mostly because of legacy organizations such as Upjohn Pharmacia, Park Davis, Pfizer, and so on. Quite frankly, the cost structures here are fairly good, they are very competitive. Above all there's a superb quality of life and the region is very accessible."
At the time Pharmaceutical Technology Europe spoke with MichBio, the full implications of the financial crisis across the US had not yet taken hold, but Rapunaldo observes that biotech does have the benefit of some insulation: "Up to this point, I haven't seen any significant trend downwards. I think the biotech arena is a little bit different than any other industry. I think people are always looking for good opportunities; I haven't seen any major shift yet."
In the last 3 years, MichBio has seen approximately 30 start-ups established in the State, and all are "still viable".