North Carolina's life sciences industry continues to grow, create high-paying jobs

Michael Perchick Image
Tuesday, June 18, 2024
NC life sciences industry continues to grow
The industry boasts more than 800 companies employing 75,000 workers.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- North Carolina's life sciences industry continues to see rapid growth amidst a slate of high-profile jobs announcements.

"The industry has over 800 companies pulling 75,000 workers at an annual salary of $112,000," said Laura Gunter, President of the NC Life Sciences Organization.

A report from the Brookings Institute found between 2020 and 2022, life sciences companies committed to invest over $9 billion and create 12,500 new jobs statewide.

Recent announcements come from Eli Lilly, which is investing $450 million to expand its manufacturing facility in Research Triangle Park and Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies, which is investing $1.2 billion with plans to create 680 jobs in Wake County.

"There's $88 billion in overall economic output from the industry and actually $2.4 billion in state and local taxes paid. It's a fairly significant part of the North Carolina economy," Gunter said.

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In 2021, FUJIFILM announced it would expand operations in Holly Springs, a $2 billion project that is the largest life sciences investment in state history.

KBI Biopharma, which employs 1,000 people statewide, has one of three North Carolina facilities in Patriot Park.

"If you have an idea for a drug, you come to us and we help you take that and develop the process that's necessary to manufacture that drug," said J.D. Mowery, the President and CEO of KBI Biopharma.

Mowery joined the company just over a year ago, after working in other biotech hubs including Boston, San Francisco and Seattle.

"The RTP area is commonly known as a strong, strong biotech hub for talent. Companies are flocking to the area. We've seen recent investments that are happening all over. It's something that we always looked at talent for, no matter where I was," Mowery said.

"There's a lot of collaboration. What is industry need, what are the services that these universities and then some of the training facilities like the community colleges are providing and making sure that we're in sync," Gunter added.

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The Triangle's growth continues to outpace much of the country, and it turns out some nearby counties are growing even faster.

Mowery said about 70% of their portfolio is in oncology.

"Companies will send us their product, whether it's the drug substance like we manufacture here or the drug product that would be in a syringe or an auto injector or a vial, and we can do that testing for them to make sure that it meets the specifications that are required," said Mowery.

A 2022 report from TEConomy found that since 2018, life sciences employment statewide grew by 13% compared to just 3% in the overall private sector.

Overall, the industry benefits from both state and federal grants, though Gunter highlights another source of funding companies are seeking.

"Venture companies are often more comfortable putting money into the program that's down the street instead of a few states away. So that is something that we are working on as well, because I think that's kind of one of the pieces that we most need is more dollars coming into the state," Gunter said.

As that work continues, Mowery pointed to an upswing in favorable conditions.

"We're starting to see more IPOs being filed and we're seeing more investments being made in the life sciences sector," Mowery said.