Several U.S. states, particularly California and North Carolina, are using a variety of tactics -- from tax breaks to movie-star power -- to entice biotech firms to build and expand within their borders.
Robert Coughlin, Massachusetts undersecretary of business development, described the atmosphere as "hand-to-hand combat." But it may be more beauty pageant than bloody siege.
Consider California's sheer geographic size, and it makes sense that more than 5,000 biotech businesses are located there. Add to that a promise of $3 billion in state funds for stem-cell research and a body builder-turned-actor-turned-governor, and it's no wonder some executives could be seeing stars.
But local officials tout the Bay State's remarkable innovation, taking place at renowned medical centers and ivy-walled universities. Many leading biotech firms that focus on clinical diagnostics, medical therapy and cancer treatment are headquartered here.
Then again, when put on stage against, say, North Carolina -- where it costs much less to live or operate a business than in Massachusetts or California -- the Bay State has more work cut out for it than simply resting on its laurels and branding itself as having moved beyond its reputation as "Taxachusetts."
And while there are at least seven states heavily focused on biotech, including New Jersey and Texas, the three top biotech industry centers in the nation are California, Massachusetts and North Carolina, according to a 2006 biotech industry report by Ernst & Young Ltd.
In Massachusetts, biotech represents 727 companies that employ 50,000 people, according to the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council.
California's tactic to draw biotech is to invest heavily in the public university system, said David Crane, special adviser to the governor for jobs and economic growth. "The idea of drawing companies based (solely) on taxpayer funds is not attractive to me," said Crane.