What a Trade Group Says About Albany's Bio/Med Scene

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Source: Albany Business Review

Jessica Crawford spent her Tuesday in Albany, trying to convince state legislators to boost an under-the-radar source of jobs in upstate NY: the bio/med industry.

Albany will be a popular forum for Crawford this year as president of MedTech, an upstate industry trade group of bioscience, pharmaceutical and medical-device companies - and universities researching the same.

MedTech's members include three major Capital Region manufacturers [see the list further down] employing a combined 2,300 people in a 60-mile stretch, from Queensbury to East Greenbush.Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, a private engineering university in Troy, signed on as a member last week.

MedTech turns 10 years old this year. Crawford moved MedTech's annual conference, which draws about 250 people and brand-name companies, to Albany for the first time (it will be held in October, in Colonie).

It's partly a sign of the area's growing bio/med activity. It's also a sign that Crawford wants to bolster her trade group's membership list across upstate.

"It allows our membership to get up close and personal with many of those Albany companies, and I count Saratoga and Queensbury in that, too," Crawford tells me. "There's a lot to showcase in Albany."

On Tuesday, Crawford and a dozen people - including Joe DeVivo, president and CEO of AngioDynamics Inc. - lobbied state legislators on ways they can help bio/med.

A key request: The start of an angel investment program. Crawford called New York's notoriously taxing business climate "the elephant in the room," but indicated that the issue of seed money and venture capital is an even more urgent concern.

Take the case of another Capital Region manufacturer, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals(Nasdaq: REGN). After 25 years toiling away in drug research, the company skyrocketed on the success of its drug to treat macular degeneration, a leading cause of adult blindness.

Regeneron now employs 600 to 700 people, or more, at its manufacturing operation in East Greenbush.

"Life sciences can be extremely expensive. It's a long maturation time," Crawford says of the need for angel investments to get promising new companies off the ground.

"We've got a window of time to either sustain and grow these high-quality jobs, or we're going to lose them," Crawford says. "Upstate hasn't seen the significant uptick in job gains that's going on in other parts of the country. New York state needs to seize on the opportunities with bio/med."

As a footnote, here are those three major Capital Region manufacturers I mentioned before:

AngioDynamics (Nasdaq: ANGO), which makes medical devices. The company was founded in Queensbury; a lot of manufacturing is done there, while headquarters has since moved to Latham.

Regeneron (Nasdaq: REGN), making those pharmaceuticals in East Greenbush

Albany Molecular Reseach Inc. (Nasdaq:AMRI), known for discovering the active ingredient in the allergy medication Allegra. The company is based in Colonie with a manufacturing facility in Rensselaer.

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