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Biotechnology now has nearly 10,000 jobs in Maine

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Betsy Williams, vice president of manufacturing operations at ImmuCell Corp., gives a tour of the company’s Portland facility on Evergreen Drive in 2017. The company recently announced an expansion there. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Maine’s biotechnology companies have created nearly 10,000 jobs in the state, a new report by the industry says.

The report, released Thursday by BioME, the Bioscience Association of Maine, found there are now more than 9,500 jobs at 484 life science companies in the state. The association said that the number of jobs represents a 42 percent increase over the last five years.

And the jobs pay very well, the report said, with an average salary of $108,000. In all, the industry contributes $2.2 billion of the state’s total gross domestic product of nearly $62 billion, the association said.

Much of the recent growth can be attributed to the demand for new products and equipment to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

“This new report confirms the robust response to the pandemic from Maine’s life science companies,” said Agnieszka Carpenter, executive director of the Bioscience Association of Maine.

Carpenter said that while the uncertain path of the pandemic makes it hard to predict if that growth driver for the industry will continue, the report’s findings create “a positive outlook for the industry moving forward.”

BioME found that much of the recent job growth in the state was fueled by the creation and production of diagnostic tests and components in response to the pandemic, as well as manufacturing of surgical appliances and supplies. The research and development efforts by companies in Maine also contributed to job growth, the report said.

The association last compiled a report on the state of the Maine industry in 2019 and found 7,433 life sciences jobs, average salaries of $95,000 and a $1.5 billion contribution to the state’s gross domestic product. Association officials pointed out that growth in the industry was 14 percent over the five years prior to 2019, so the 42 percent growth over the last five years in the new report shows the impact of COVID-19 product development and manufacturing in Maine.

As an example, the report cited Maine Molecular Quality Controls of Saco, which designs and manufactures quality control products for medical labs around the world. In the past three years, the report said, the company has increased its workforce by more than 50 percent and recently completed an $18 million facility expansion, more than tripling its space.

A key factor, the company said, was its work early in the pandemic, helping to develop tests to detect the presence of the coronavirus.

Joan Gordon, president of the business, said demand continues to be strong for COVID quality controls and that the company is also growing through development of tests for other infectious and inherited diseases, oncology testing and custom products for lab testing and equipment manufacturers around the world .

Other Maine companies and organizations have made similar pivots. Both Westbrook-based IDEXX Laboratories Inc. and the Jackson Laboratory, based in Bar Harbor, branched into COVID testing services and supplies at the start of the pandemic, while continuing mainstay bioscience businesses.

Today’s report was released at the BioME Annual Conference, held Thursday afternoon at the University of Southern Maine.

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