Invest in Biotech, Or Watch the U.S. Health Innovation Edge Slip Away


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district in Seattle (the development of which has been supported by city policy and infrastructure investment) is well on its way to creating a cluster of innovative, high-paying life sciences and global health jobs. In all, biopharmaceutical research companies spend nearly $1 billion in R&D in Washington annually.

According to the most recent figures, more than 20,000 workers in Washington are directly employed in the life sciences sector, contributing more than $10 billion in state economic output. In all, biopharmaceutical companies support more than 76,000 jobs, either directly; indirectly, meaning under contract or in a support role; or via the spending of direct employees.

President Obama recently set a goal of ending cancer in our lifetime. A cure for cancer would change modern life in many profound ways, including estimated economic savings of up to $50 trillion. Medical innovation’s effect on today’s economy can be felt most directly in the job market. The biomedical industry was a bright spot of quality job creation through the recession, growing 1.5 percent in jobs from 2007 to 2008, while the overall economy declined. The health care field is projected to add three million jobs between 2006 and 2016. Life sciences jobs pay far more than average, and they have a multiplier effect. For every one of them, it’s said at least three more support jobs are created around them.

It’s time for a sharper focus on medical innovation, both in our national and state innovation agenda. We should do it to help secure our economic future, as well as for the advancements in care and quality of life that will be captured as a result.

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Rogers Weed is the Director of the Washington State Department of Commerce and also co-chairs the Clean Energy Leadership Council and State Energy Strategy initiative. Follow @

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