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Connecticut's Growing Biopharma Industry Looks to Fill High-Demand Jobs

2/14/2017 7:49:11 AM

Connecticut's Growing Biopharma Industry Looks to Fill High-Demand Jobs February 14, 2017
By Mark Terry, Breaking News Staff

Despite the presence of Yale University, UConn Health, and The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine (JAX), Connecticut isn’t the first place one thinks of for biopharma. But the state’s government is interested in changing that.

The Connecticut General Assembly will be considering two proposed bills that have been referred by the Commerce Committee. House Bills 6746 and 6760, both introduced by State Rep. David Yaccarino, R-North Haven, according to the Yale Daily News, “seek to make Connecticut a more welcoming business environment for bioindustrial companies.”

HB 6746 would develop a program for industry investors “that would allow 50 percent of eligible investments to receive tax credits. The credits would be capped at $50,000 for individual investors and $250,000 for entities such as corporations and venture capital firms.”

HB 6760 would exempt startup bioindustry companies that have links to academic-business incubators from paying the state’s corporate business tax for five years.

“My plan,” Yaccarino told the Yale Daily News, “is to, as a state, really embrace and expand our bioscience and biomedicine to help folks.”

Despite Yaccarino’s enthusiasm, there’s significant skepticism over whether the state will approve the bills.

Hartford recently interviewed Paul Pescatello, senior counsel and executive director of CBIA’s Connecticut Bioscience Growth Council. He was asked about Connecticut’s reputation as being tough for businesses. “Connecticut has a well-deserved reputation for being hospitable to research and development,” he responded, “which is critical to bioscience companies because of the long research cycle to bring a new medicine from concept to FDA-approved product. This respect for research and development is memorialized in our tax code, which provides very competitive credits for research and development.”
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However, he went on, the state has chronic fiscal and budget issues, which “often place research and development tax policy into play. This unpredictability clouds our business climate.”

On February 3, a number of scientists and industry leaders addressed a Connecticut state economic competitiveness panel. Among things noted was that Connecticut is hardly the only state seeking to grow its biopharma industry. Many of them felt that for Connecticut to compete, the state would need to take major steps to create government incentives.

Although most welcome the concept, a lot of concern was expressed by the legislators on whether the growth of the industry benefits current Connecticut workers, especially those without college educations. “The state’s made commitments to bioscience,” Joseph McGee, co-chair of the commission and vice president for public policy and programs at The Business Council of Fairfield Country, said at the hearing. “Help me understand how this private investment grows jobs. What are we looking at five years out? One-hundred jobs? Ten-thousand jobs?”

Robert Alpern, dean of the Yale School of Medicine, one of the speakers at the hearing, admitted that it would likely generate a significant number of jobs, but not on that scale (presumably he was referring to the 10,000 jobs figure).

Edison Liu, president and chief executive officer of The Jackson Laboratory, which built its Farmington institute with state funding worth $291 million, pointed out that while there is obvious economic value to precision medicine, how to utilize it best to improve economic development isn’t clear. But that uncertainty, he said, “presents a real opportunity for new players, like Connecticut, to compete against the Bostons and Silicon Valleys of the world.”

Despite the uncertainty, the state does have a number of well-known and highly regarded research centers, as well as the presence of biopharma companies such as Axerion Therapeutics, Gilead (GILD), Invitrogen, Beckton Dickinson, Novogen, Alexion Pharmaceuticals (ALXN) and others.

The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine Career Forum, sponsored by BioSpace, will be held in Farmington, Connecticut on Tuesday, March 28, 2017 from 4pm to 7 pm for scientists interested in exploring potential careers in Connecticut. Hiring managers will be there to discuss jobs in Computational Science, Genomic Research, IT/Software and Post-Doctoral positions.

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