Skip to main content

News & Events

News & Announcements

Still waiting for the biotech boom

Excerpt from Daily Record article by Stephanie Gleason

Across town in Baltimore, the University of Maryland, Baltimore BioPark has had more success. Since 2005, the university has built and leased all but one floor in two biotech buildings to 20 tenants. A third building is set to begin construction this year.

EBDI’s website said the construction of five lab buildings will create 6,000 jobs, down from long-time projections of 8,000. But the University of Maryland buildings employ a total of 500 people, said Jane Shaab, senior vice president of the Research Park Corp., the nonprofit organization managing the University of Maryland, Baltimore BioPark.

Many biotech companies employ a small staff of people, especially when the companies are young: 34 percent of biotech companies in Maryland employ fewer than 10 people, according to the same MdBio study.

Cheryl Washington, EBDI’s senior director of community and human services, said the companies in the Rangos building are not able to hire lab technicians or fill similar jobs until they do research, have success and receive investments.

“For the first year or so they’re working with skeleton crews,” she said.

But analysts say the timeline is often much longer.

A biotech firm may spend 10 to 15 years researching and testing its first product before winning approval from the Food and Drug Administration, said T. Christopher Caffrey, a partner at the Ernst & Young audit practice that oversees the life science field for Greater Washington.

Before that approval, Caffrey said, companies do not have the venture capital that would allow them to hire more staff members, including lab technicians and other employees who do not need more than a high school diploma and some job training. EBDI wants to place neighborhood residents into those job categories.

“You’re going to see companies that have three people, five people — you know, 10 people in these smaller drug- discovery, venture-backed companies,” Shaab said. “For the most part they’re not spending money on lab techs.”

Jack Ellinghaus, facilities manager for Forest City Science + Technology Group, EBDI’s master developer, said that the 285 people working in the Rangos building are “a lot of M.D.s, Ph.D.s and M.D.-Ph.D.s” — not employees with only a high school diploma.

Clinch found in his 2009 EBDI study that “while a large number of jobs will be created inside of the EBDI redevelopment area as the planned buildings are completed, the goal of placing large numbers of residents in jobs inside of the redevelopment area may be difficult to attain as a result of the high levels of education and training required for many of these jobs.”