sam patrick posted an articleLife sciences expands career opportunities for SC graduates see more
COVID caused pain and heartache and death across the world and here in the Lowcountry, but it also revealed some bright spots. One of those is the life sciences industry, which was responsible for diagnosing COVID, providing responses, and ultimately developing effective vaccines.
Coincidentally, the life sciences industry in South Carolina is itself on a growth spurt that was accelerated by the pandemic. The number of firms in the industry had doubled in the last four years, making it the fastest-growing industry sector in the state. The Darla Moore School of Business estimated its annual economic impact at $12 billion before the most recent spike.
Life sciences produce next-generation pharmaceuticals and vaccines; advanced medical devices, diagnostics, and testing; digital health; bioscience distribution; bio-agriculture and biomaterials; and biological solutions for advanced manufacturing.
Life sciences also encompass two areas of focus for the Lowcountry Graduate Center – advanced manufacturing and healthcare management. While the connection with healthcare is obvious, many people don’t realize that life science research and advanced manufacturing work symbiotically. Many life science innovations, like medical devices, require advanced manufacturing to produce, while life science innovations can power the process of advanced manufacturing itself.
Career Opportunities in Life Sciences
That means jobs, and not just for M.D.s and Ph.D.’s, but for technical college graduates and university biology and chemistry majors as well. The average life sciences position pays $79,000, according to the official state affiliate of the U.S. Biotechnology Innovation Organization, also referred to as SCBIO, the nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the life sciences industry in S.C. Because workforce development is the primary challenge facing the industry, SCBIO is engaged in an initiative to promote the industry as a career path for students, guidance counselors, and parents at the K-12 level and in two- and four-year college.
Indeed, SCBIO is in the process of developing an industry-advocated life sciences curriculum for technical colleges that can prepare graduates for jobs in the field. Courses would cover manufacturing processes; safety and technical protocols like measurements and ISO standards; soft skills required for all workplaces; and the connections between the various life science components and the life-saving innovations they support.
“We want to get to students even sooner so we’re partnering with organizations that are already in schools to add more of the ‘S’ in STEM,” said Erin Ford, interim CEO at SCBIO. “If someone takes a course at Trident Tech, they can get a job paying $50,000 or more with health insurance while working on a product that helps people live better lives.”
The vector of life science development is different depending on the area of the state, with the Lowcountry showing strength in biotechnology, pharmaceutical, and manufacturing, says Ford.
Life Science Companies Need Space to Grow
Besides workforce development, the next big challenge constraining growth is space. Lab space at the new WestEdge development in downtown Charleston was fully subscribed when it opened and now developers are seeking new space. Clean labs are more complex and costly to retrofit and build than ordinary office or warehouse space.
Nonetheless, the firms keep coming – or starting – and the state has gotten behind the industry. As a critical step, it authorized and funded SCBIO as the state’s lead life sciences industry economic development organization.
Life science provides more than just more job growth: it provides diversification of an economy that 30 years ago relied heavily on a Navy base that packed up and left. Life sciences are more recession-resistant than automotive and aeronautics, two areas of manufacturing strength in the Lowcountry that respond to retail market demand. People never cease needing health innovations.
Recognizing that, the Charleston Regional Development Alliance (CRDA) and South Carolina Research Authority have backed the industry. CRDA was the first development authority in the state to build map out a strategic plan to attract and retain life science businesses.
Headwinds for Life Sciences in South Carolina
Sam Konduros of KOR Medical, a clinical cannabis firm launched by the Charleston-based diagnostic and testing company Vikor Scientific, says South Carolina and SCBIO have created a business climate conducive to the industry, and the health care and advanced manufacturing infrastructure have added tailwinds to its development. Citing Vikor’s growth from 45 employees to 450 during COVID, he says recruiting a talented workforce has not been a significant challenge so far. He notes the usual Charleston quality-of-life benefits – weather, beaches, history, and food, in addition to the growing vibrancy of the industry – as recruiting tools have contributed to the success.
Ford and Konduros see possible headwinds elsewhere for the industry. Roadways and other transportation infrastructure could use improvement, and housing availability and affordability are statewide issues. For example, the state’s franchise tax, now eliminated by 36 states, penalizes early-stage companies successfully raising venture capital before going to market. In an industry that often spends millions to earn FDA approval prior to commercialization, the tax is a burden, they say.
sam patrick posted an articleClemson partnership extends reach to India and beyond see more
Clemson University researchers said a new partnership with one of India’s top engineering universities will lead to new medical devices, sensors and startup companies, while helping educate leaders and entrepreneurs for the global healthcare industry.
Clemson is joining with the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi to create the Center for Innovative Medical Devices and Sensors.
The long-term vision for the center includes exchanges of faculty members, students and post-doctoral researchers, and to eventually establish joint courses. Some of the first projects will focus on solutions for diabetes and other chronic health issues common to both countries.
The first exchanges could begin as soon as next summer.
Researchers plan to focus on technology that is close to going from the lab to the marketplace, a concept that scholars call translational research. The devices that researchers develop could lead to biomedical start-ups — and the lucrative jobs that come with them– in South Carolina and India, they said.
An advantage to cross-border research is that new technology will be designed to meet regulatory requirements in multiple countries, smoothing the transition to markets around the globe, said Delphine Dean, who is the Gregg-Graniteville Associate Professor of Bioengineering at Clemson.
The collaboration is the latest in a growing number of links between South Carolina and India, a connection that could help build both economies, she said.
“If a company wants to have a landing base to do FDA testing, South Carolina is a great area to do it in,” she said. “We have a lot of resources at the state level, and I think it will help drive economic development. When you go visit IIT Delhi, they know Clemson, and they know South Carolina.”
Dean is coordinating the center with Sandeep K. Jha, an assistant professor in the Centre for Biomedical Engineering at IIT Delhi.
Jha said the joint center with Clemson will be a win-win for both institutions and that they will develop several vital technologies by working together.
“The research and continual development in the field of medical sensors and devices is the need of the hour,” he said. “Most of the conventional technology related to healthcare and diagnostics have gradually been shifted towards automation, miniaturization and cost-effectiveness.
“In this regard, a research collaboration with Clemson University to develop cutting-edge medical technology would be beneficial for India, as it imports the majority of its medical devices and technologies. Medical devices and sensors could also help to meet several critical needs of South Carolina.”
For Clemson students, the opportunity to visit labs and do research in India will encourage global-scale thinking.
“If I were an undergrad, I’d think this was a great opportunity,” Dean said. “You go enjoy an experience in India and then you get your engineering degree. Then you’re a hot commodity for a job.”
IIT Delhi students will be visiting Clemson primarily for research, graduate studies and specialized bioengineering programs. Those programs include the Master of Engineering program and Green MD, an initiative focused on medical device recycling and reprocessing.
One of the attractions for IIT Delhi students is that they will have a chance to work with Clemson faculty who have extensive experience in translational research, said Brij Khorana, the chief scientific advisor for the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences at Clemson.
“By working with these Clemson faculty members, they will have the opportunity to gain entrepreneurial skills and participate in start-up businesses here, and then perhaps some of these students can go back to India and help with the healthcare industry there,” Khorana said. “Over time, this collaboration can just grow and grow.”
Some of the students’ work will be on the main campus, and some will be in Greenville at the Clemson University Biomedical Engineering Innovation Campus. The campus, also called CUBEInC, is at Greenville Health System’s Patewood campus.
Clemson’s close connection with clinicians at GHS and Medical University of South Carolina will be appealing to IIT Delhi students, Dean said. Clinicians play a crucial role in guiding research, ensuring that it reflects what happens in real-world hospitals and clinics.
Martine LaBerge, chair of the Department of Bioengineering at Clemson, said the new center will create a unique environment for healthcare education and research.
“The Center for Innovative Medical Devices and Sensors sets the stage for integrative learning and inventing experiences,” LaBerge said. “Students will learn the leadership, entrepreneurial and technical skills they will need to support and enhance a knowledge-based economy.”
The collaboration between Clemson and IIT Delhi brings together two institutions noted for their work in engineering and healthcare.
IIT Delhi was the third highest ranked Indian university in the latest QS World University Rankings. The institute also tied for No. 1 in engineering among Indian universities in the annual “Performance Ranking of Scientific Papers for World Universities” by National Taiwan University.
Clemson is renowned as the birthplace of the field of biomaterials and was among the first universities in the United States to start a bioengineering program, awarding its first Ph.D. in 1963. The university played a central role in creating the Society for Biomaterials.
Anand Gramopadhye, dean of Clemson’s College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences, said the center will enable transformative research and deepen the talent pool for the healthcare industry.
“By coming together, Clemson and IIT Delhi will be able to accomplish much more than we could apart,” he said. “We are creating the conditions for a wider pipeline between academia and industry, as well as a healthier global society.”