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As a member of the Board of Directors and Legislative Committee of BioFlorida, I spent a couple of days this week with over two dozen other members of the Florida Life Sciences community meeting with legislative leaders to discuss BioFlorida's legislative priorities for the upcoming session. Among those in attendance were representatives from Scripps Florida, University of Florida, Florida State University, University of South Florida, Nova University, AdvaMed, Genentech, Florida Institute for Commercialization of Public Research, Florida Hospital, CSL Behring, Novel Bio-Spectrum Technologies, Inc., DPR Construction, Claro Scientific and many more.

Our Legislative Committee Chair, Tom McClain, CEO of Claro Scientific, made a presentation to the House Economic Affairs Committee on the state of the biotech industry in Florida.

Key Facts:

Since the 2000 to 2003 period, which culminated in the State of Florida's $310 million investment in recruiting The Scripps Research Institute to Florida, the number of biotech companies in Florida has grown from approximately 70 companies to nearly 200 in 2011.

Venture Capital investments are still relatively small but are trending upwards, and significant exits are now taking place. VC funding for Florida Life Sciences in 2011 was over $85 million, roughly divided between biotech and medical devices. This compares favorably to the three prior years (2008 - 2010) which were $70 million, $43 million and $30 million, respectively.

Florida ranks 12th in total federal funding for research.

Florida ranks among the top 10states for bioscience employment (#1 in bioscience distribution companies, #2 in medical device companies, #2 in research, testing and medical laboratories, #3 in agricultural feedstock and chemicals, #4 in drugs and pharmaceutical companies). It is #6 in total bioscience employment.

From 2001 to 2010, Florida was one of only 7 states with job gains of 5,000 or morein the bioscience industry, on par with California, Massachusetts and Texas and ahead of New York.

Even during the recession, from 2007 to 2010, Florida was #1 in the growth rate among top bioscience employment states for medical device companies and drugs and pharmaceutical companies.

During the great recession, while employment in the private sector as a whole shrank, the bioscience industry in Florida employment index grew. In fact, the growth rate of bioscience employment in Florida outpaced the growth among all private sector jobs consistently since 2001.

Our message: Florida must continue to invest in the life sciences as a means of diversifying its economy and promoting high-wage, high-skilled, knowledge-based jobs that contribute significantly to the economy, but more importantly, help improve peoples' lives.