New economic lifeblood

No industry remains untouched from the virtual explosion of new technologies.

Even our state’s leading industry, agriculture, has plunged into the technology pool with biotechnology. State and local governments forge ahead with new incentives to attract more life sciences companies, and existing organizations like Battelle and the Ohio State University are partnering to better Ohio’s position as a biotech magnet.

But will the life sciences industry be our community’s new lifeblood of revenue and development? The industry generates $10 billion in tax revenue and $11 billion in research and development spending nationwide, according to the Biotechnology Industry Organization. No one can argue that a piece of that revenue would not be welcome.

And with companies like Ross Laboratories and Cardinal Health poised to move on lucrative opportunities, the industry is a natural choice for business development.

But creating a life sciences corridor will take time. From discovery to approval, it takes about 10 years and millions of dollars for new therapeutics to hit the market. In the meantime, other states are launching initiatives to land these companies, and Pennsylvania is backing its initiatives with millions of dollars from tobacco settlement money. Do Columbus and Ohio have what it takes to compete?

Many people, like Battelle President and CEO Carl F. Kohrt, say yes. But we can’t put all our economic eggs in one basket. While just the word “technology” brings dollar signs to people’s eyes, not all technologies are successful. The life sciences industry is still a work in progress, with ethical issues and risks. It can’t be considered a panacea for all our medical or financial ills.

There is no doubt the life sciences industry should be a part of our financial future. But we must also continue investing in other leading edge industries and companies. In our cover story, Kohrt appropriately says, “Life sciences is one growth area, but we are just adding another car to the train.”