The Biotechnology Industry in the United States

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The U.S. Biotechnology Industry

The United States is the largest market and leading consumer of biotechnology products in the world, and home to more than 1,300 firms involved in the industry.  Between 2001 and 2010, the U.S. bioscience industry grew by 6.4 percent, adding more than 96,000 jobs. By comparison, total employment for all private sector industries in the United States fell by 2.9 percent, losing more than 3 million jobs (source:  Battelle/BIO State Bioscience Initiatives, published June 2012).

DNA sequencingThere are more than 5.5 million scientists, engineers and technicians in the United States; 1.3 million people directly involved in biosciences; and another 5.8 million workers in related industry sectors.  Business opportunities in this field for small and medium-sized enterprises, universities and research institutions are extensive. Research and development in the U.S. biotechnology sector drives the commercialization of products for domestic consumption and international trade.

With the world’s largest scientific research base and longstanding government support for biomedical and other biotechnology research and development, the United States maintains a competitive environment for the development and commercialization of biotechnology.

Industry Subsectors

Medical Biotechnology: This is the largest component of the biotechnology industry. Key product areas include biological drugs, vaccines, and in-vitro diagnostics. Principal targets for research and development are treatments for cancers, infectious diseases, auto-immune conditions, HIV/AIDS, and other diseases for which no effective treatments exist.  During the past decade, research, testing, and medical lab jobs have increased in the United States by 24 percent—translating into nearly 87,000 new jobs.  The gains have continued during and through the recent recession, with the subsector adding 6 percent to its employment base since 2007 (source:  Battelle/BIO State Bioscience Initiatives, published June 2012).

agricultural research - seedlingAgricultural Biotechnology: Key products include biotech crops such as corn, soybeans, cotton and canola, crop seeds, and related products. According to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA) the United States accounts for more than half of all biotech crops in the world.  The global value of biotech seed alone was US$13.2 billion in 2011, with the end product of commercial grain from biotech maize, soybean grain and cotton valued at roughlyUS$160 billion per year and is projected to increase 10 - 15 percent annually.

Industrial Biotechnology: Key products in this subsector include a large number of industrial applications that cut across other industry sectors. Primary product categories are nanotechnology, enzymes, and biofuels. One of the main drivers of demand for biofuels in the United States is the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).  The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 set yearly RFS volume requirements for each renewable fuel category.  The EPA updates volume requirements each year based on fuel availability. While the conventional (starch ethanol) levels will be capped at 15 percent by 2015, and current supply already exceeds the domestic demand, there is significant room for expansion of biodiesel, cellulosic, and other advanced biofuels under the RFS.  In the biotechnology sector, U.S. companies are working to develop, scale up, and commercialize fuels that will meet these needs.