South Carolina life sciences is booming, with new organizations growing and moving here see more
Comprised of 650 life sciences firms, with wages nearly double state averages and an annual economic impact over $12 billion, South Carolina life sciences employs 43,000 professionals in research, development and commercialization of innovative healthcare, medical device, industrial, environmental and agricultural biotech and products. It’s a powerful force in today’s Palmetto State economy.
The fastest growing segment of the state’s innovation economy, life sciences shows no signs of slowing — despite a global pandemic that has advanced public awareness of the vital sector.
Life sciences’ 6 major segments include pharmaceuticals/biotech (including such state organizations as Nephron Pharmaceuticals, Thorne and Thermo Fisher Scientific), medical devices/medtech (Abbott, Arthrex and AVX), Health IT/digital health (ChartSpan), research-testing-diagnostics-labs (Greenwood Genetics Center, Precision Genetics and Vikor Scientific), bioscience distribution (SoftBox Systems), and Bio-Ag. Every sector is well-represented across South Carolina, with life sciences active in at least 43 of our 46 counties.
What makes the industry even more compelling is that it averages triple the R&D spend of all other industries and is highly recession resistant due to its connectivity with healthcare. An $8 trillion annual global healthcare spend is supported by a $1.5 trillion global life sciences industry – with the United States responsible for almost half of the world’s innovations.
To help the Palmetto State become a significant player in life sciences, SCBIO was refocused 3 years ago – with economic development as the focal point. Providing support for existing industry, working with economic development organizations to recruit global life sciences companies, and developing strategies to grow our own companies has had a seismic impact on SCBIO and its stakeholders — and ushered in a new era ripe with opportunity.
Aligning with the SC Department of Commerce in 2017 helped SCBIO to triple revenue in 3 years, more than quintuple membership, develop a full-time multi-disciplinary team, and cultivate an extraordinary board of directors from industry, academia, healthcare, core service providers, and economic development partners.
SCBIO has become a catalyst for and voice of South Carolina life sciences. From offices in Greenville, Columbia, and Charleston, SCBIO represents companies in the advanced medicines, medical devices, equipment, diagnostics, IT, and healthcare outcome industries. As the official state affiliate of BIO, PhRMA and AdvaMed, SCBIO members and allies include hundreds of academic institutions, biotech companies, medtech companies, entrepreneurial organizations, service providers, thought leaders, economic development organizations and related groups.
Working with allies and partners, SCBIO created the state’s first ever SC Life Sciences Strategic Plan – now in its third iteration — to build a nationally competitive and sustainable ecosystem focused on building, advancing, innovating and growing the industry.
And innovation is the lifeblood of progress. For the state to become an innovation destination for life sciences, the effort requires relentless pursuit – of talent, of transformational ideas, of organizations bringing operations and R&D to our state, and of an enhanced ecosystem that supports existing industry while growing our own companies.
Life sciences innovation has a rich legacy in South Carolina, drawing on the notable talents and creativity of the research universities of Clemson, University of South Carolina, and MUSC… a Top 25 national health system in Prisma Health… plus South Carolina Research Authority, Greenwood Genetics Center and others whose ground-breaking work has earned South Carolina a deserved reputation as a life sciences up-and-comer.
From pioneering medical grade electrolytic capacitors that made thoracic implantable defibrillators possible at St. Jude Medical (now Abbott)… to the recent invention and introduction by MUSC, ZIAN and Rhythmlink of a novel safety electrode that has the potential to reduce needle sticks in surgical settings around the globe, South Carolina life sciences innovation is on the move.
Even facing a global pandemic, SC’s life science companies are on the front lines and performing at a high level. Entrepreneurs and academic institutions have deftly shifted focus or pivoted production to address needs resulting from the crisis. Providing everything from COVID-19 PCR test kits to antibody tests, from respiratory therapies to face shields, and from developing specialty garments for frontline workers to being selected to conduct Phase III vaccine trials in the hunt for a COVID cure, South Carolina is now a part of the global solution team.
A prime example is Columbia’s ZVerse, a digital manufacturer. Seeing desperate need for protective shields for healthcare workers, the early-stage company quickly pivoted to become one of America’s largest manufacturers of reusable face shields. ZVerse then devised a new, proprietary shield that is more comfortable to wear over long periods of time. Sales have soared.
The booming ecosystem includes technology incubators and accelerators across the state, providing entrepreneurs with guidance and opportunity to collaborate with peers. A recent SCRA initiative—the creation of the South Carolina Business Incubator Association — is an important step in helping organizations share best practices and stimulate innovation.
Along with Southeastern partners Global Center for Medical Innovation and Health Connect South, SCBIO is championing a unique innovation partnership: The Southeast HealthTech Collaboration. Leveraging complementary strengths, resources and networks, the group will identify pressing health needs in our region without requiring major new investment in infrastructure or capital.
Now a finalist for a major grant in the EDA 2020 Build to Scale Venture Challenge, the Southeast HealthTech Collaboration will launch a three-year program to:
- Convene healthcare leaders to identify top healthcare challenges and innovators working on technology-based solutions to address them;
- Accelerate best solutions through development and into commercialization; and
- Scale startups and networks to drive investment and job creation across South Carolina and Georgia.
With a focus on minority and underserved populations, the initiative will accelerate development and commercialization of technological solutions to address unmet clinical and health needs, leading to scaling of startup growth and a sustainable economic engine.
As American poet Robert Frost penned:
“The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep.”
Despite miles to go, there is plentiful evidence that our state is “punching above our weight class”, given our relative size and resources. With innovation blossoming and a surging passion for improving prosperity, the promise of South Carolina and its future has never been brighter.
Online portals like South Carolina's are connecting the needy with vital PPE see more
Online portals are connecting hospitals short on personal protective equipment with local businesses making the items.
Businesses across the country have switched gears away from the production of their usual wares to manufacturing personal protective equipment in high demand during the coronavirus pandemic.
But with equipment shortages and so many new vendors entering the marketplace, doctors’ offices, hospitals, and other businesses looking for the supplies may not know where to turn. So, states have launched online portals to help match would-be customers with manufacturers that can meet their needs.
In Pennsylvania, the Department of Community and Economic Development launched a business-to-business directory last week that provides contact information for local manufacturers of a variety of N95 respirator masks and cloth masks, as well as thermometers. To compile the directory, the state put out a call for manufacturers or suppliers of in-demand PPE through two web portals.
“Through this process, we recognized that we can help foster direct business connections to provide Pennsylvanians access to critical supplies expeditiously without a middleman,” said Dennis Davin, secretary of the economic development agency.
The first portal launched in March and sought information from manufacturers and suppliers about equipment that the state could purchase for medical providers, emergency responders, and health care professionals. Through the second portal, the Pennsylvania Manufacturing Call to Action Portal, companies could report their own supply chain capabilities, needs, or workforce gaps.
The nation’s economy has slowed down dramatically as states ordered residents to stay at home and non-essential businesses to close to help stop the spread of the virus. To both keep workers employed and to meet the staggering demands for masks and other equipment needed by health care providers, businesses across the country have begun repurposing their equipment and supplies to manufacture personal protective equipment.
Distilleries have swapped whiskey for hand sanitizer. A company that makes wallets and outdoor gear from recycled sailcloth is now manufacturing face shields. And a 3-D printing business is now churning out thousands of nasal test swabs.
But it’s made for a confusing marketplace, said Chuck Spangler, director of the South Carolina Manufacturing Extension Partnership, one of several partners helping to run an online PPE supply portal in the state.
The launch of the South Carolina Covid-19 Emergency Supply Collaborative has made it much easier to track the current needs of hospitals and other medical providers and to funnel business back into local economies, Spangler said.
“We needed to know the demand from the health care providers so we could be more effective,” he said.
The collaborative, which has partnered with the state’s Department of Commerce, the South Carolina Hospital Association, and SCBIO, the voice of the South Carolina Life Sciences Industry, regularly updates the list of critical needs items on its website. When medical providers reach out to the collaborative to discuss their supply needs, the collaborative responds with a list of manufacturers or suppliers they have vetted to ensure they are properly licensed.
About 70% of the 172 of the manufacturers or suppliers currently working with the collaborative are located in South Carolina, which means the effort has been able to channel business back into the state’s economy while also meeting its healthcare needs, Spangler said.
As a result, some businesses have been able to limit the number of employees laid off during the economic crisis while others are even growing. Spangler said. One 3-D printing company that went from producing 30,000 face shields a day to 200,000 and had to staff up to accommodate the demand, he said.
He hopes the investment in local sourcing will help the state’s economy bounce back once the pandemic is over.
Challenges the collaborative expects to encounter in the near future include sourcing supplies for a broader array of businesses that will be allowed to reopen in the coming weeks as the state’s stay-at-home order is relaxed. Another hurdle will be securing equipment for small businesses that may have orders sidelined by their regular suppliers struggling to fill bulk orders.
“Their suppliers are pushing them out and saying, ‘Sorry you can’t get product until the end of May,’” Spangler said.
Acquiring an adequate amount of personal protective equipment will be vital to restarting local economies across the country.
In Missouri, Gov. Mike Parson announced an online PPE portal this week, noting that a key pillar of his plan to reopen the state is expanding the state’s reserves of PPE by opening public and private supply chains. The state reports getting interest in the portal from more than 200 companies.
“Manufacturers across the state have answered the call to help protect our health care workers, and we are committed to doing all we can to get this equipment into the hands of those that need it,” Parson said.
South Carolina Launches COVID-19 Emergency Supply Portal to Connect Providers with Organizations in NeedSouth Carolina launches portal to connect critical supplies with those who need them see more
SCMEP, South Carolina Hospital Association, SC Department of Commerce and SCBIO combine
to source critical medical supplies and get them to parties in need quickly
South Carolina – April 13, 2020 – A collaboration between SCMEP, the SC Hospital Association, the SC Department of Commerce and SCBIO has resulted in the expedited launch of a new online South Carolina Emergency Supply Collaborative web portal.
Located at www.SCCOVID19.org, the portal connects parties in need of essential supplies and equipment with those that can provide it in quickly and efficiently. It allows industry and community partners with the ability to quickly produce, source, test, certify or contribute critical medical supplies (such as face shields, gowns, ventilators and masks) to directly connect with the healthcare providers, first responders and members of industry in search of those essential supply needs in one easy step.
Manufacturers able to expand or pivot their production lines, suppliers and distributors with access to ready-made supplies, organizations able to donate supplies or personal protective equipment (PPE) can identify the supplies and equipment they can offer in the site’s central repository. Once quickly reviewed and vetted by a team from the collaborative, organizations in need of the materials will be digitally connected through the portal to secure their desired goods from providers directly.
The need for the portal was identified after members of the collaborative began individually fielding hundreds of calls from organizations in need of such supplies, said Chuck Spangler, President of the South Carolina Manufacturing Extension Partnership (SCMEP).
“Each of our respective organizations has strong and indelible positions as sources of information, connection and aid to our respective constituencies, so it was logical for those parties – whether hospitals or manufacturers, existing industry or life sciences organizations – to turn to us in time of need,” said Mr. Spangler. “After sharing among ourselves the flood of requests we were individually receiving and trying to manage, we determined that a combined approach would offer greatest value and efficiency for our state and its citizens, and the creation of the South Carolina COVID-19 Emergency Supply portal was quickly underway.”
The site identifies critical need items as evidenced by industry, healthcare, first responder and governmental audiences across the state, and allows organizations to quickly enter the type of goods they can provide or manufacture, quantities and production capacity, and supply chain needs or requirements. Once entered and vetted by the SCMEP team, inquiring parties seeking the goods will be connected to the providers through the portal. Organizations then conduct transactions and arrange and plan logistics directly.
“This is a joint effort to recruit community partners with ability to quickly source or provide needed medical supplies to support South Carolina’s COVID-19 response,” said Thornton Kirby, President and CEO of the SC Hospital Association. “South Carolina’s COVID-19 Emergency Supply website will save valuable time and effort in connecting those in need of goods with those who have them… at a time where every minute counts in saving lives and defeating this formidable virus.”
The COVID-19 Emergency Supply website will be updated constantly with new information and opportunities to support South Carolina emergency response efforts. It also links directly to individual websites of the four Collaborative partners, which each provide a host of resources, news, connections and relevant information for businesses and individuals.
“We are all in this together, and I am proud of the South Carolina business community’s continued response to serve our state during this unprecedented time,” said S.C. Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt. “The COVID-19 Emergency Supply Collaborative’s ability to connect manufacturers, suppliers and other organizations with the front-line medical personnel who need these critical items will serve as a valuable resource.”
Organizations and individuals can go online 24/7 to identify critical need items or to note what products they can provide or may need, said Sam Konduros, CEO of SCBIO. “We encourage every member of industry, if you have a product that is needed and which you can provide, produce, test, certify or donate, let us know that right now by completing the simple form on the site. And for organizations in need of such items, let us know that right away so that we can get connect you with parties who can help right now.”
Visit the new site at https://sccovid19.org/
South Carolina Commerce awards $700K in innovation grants... see more
Nine organizations receive state funds as part of Startup Fuel Challenge
The S.C. Department of Commerce Office of Innovation announced more than $719,000 in grant awards to nine organizations as part of its Startup Fuel Challenge grant series. Tasked with advancing innovation, entrepreneurship and technology-based economic development, this grant program focuses on projects that are outcome-oriented and aim to build stronger entrepreneurs and companies.
“As South Carolina has become a leader in advanced manufacturing, an innovation economy has developed within our borders. To ensure that our industry partners have access to cutting-edge technology and a high-tech workforce, the continued growth of our innovation economy is critical,” said Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt. “I congratulate these nine awardees and look forward to all they’ll achieve in the years to come.”
Established in 2013, the Office of Innovation announced grant awards in 2014 and 2015. As a result, more than 25 entrepreneurship programs were supported, and more than 6,000 South Carolinians were educated in technology curriculum.