Biotechnology now has nearly 10,000 jobs in Maine

Betsy Williams, Vice President of Manufacturing Operations at ImmuCell Corp., tours 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, according to a new industry report.

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 the number of jobs has increased by 42 percent over the past five years.

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

Much of the recent growth has been driven by demand for new products and equipment in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

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

Carpenter said that while the uncertain trajectory of the pandemic makes it difficult to predict whether this growth driver for the industry will continue, the report’s findings create “a positive outlook for the future of the industry.”

BioME noted that much of the state’s recent job growth has been fueled by the development and production of diagnostic tests and components in response to the pandemic, as well as the manufacture of surgical equipment and supplies. Research and development efforts by Maine companies also contributed to job growth, the report said.

The association last produced a 2019 report on the state of Maine’s industry, finding 7,433 life science jobs, average salaries of $95,000 and contributing $1.5 billion to the state’s gross domestic product. Association officials pointed out that industry growth was 14 percent in the five years leading up to 2019, making the 42 percent growth over the past five years in the new report the impact of COVID-19 product development and manufacturing in Maine indicates.

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

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

Joan Gordon, President of the Business, said that demand for COVID quality controls remains strong and that the company is also expanding through the development of tests for other infectious and inherited diseases, oncology tests and custom products for laboratory testing and device manufacturers around the world grow .

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Other Maine businesses and organizations have made similar pivots. Both Westbrook-based IDEXX Laboratories Inc. and Bar Harbor-based Jackson Laboratory branched out into COVID testing services and supplies early in the pandemic while maintaining their core life sciences businesses.

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

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