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Utah Life Sciences News & Events

What Makes Utah One of the Fastest Growing Life Sciences Hubs in America?

October 28, 2021

By Kelvyn Cullimore, President and CEO of BioUtah

What comes to mind when you think of Utah? Skiing on the “greatest snow on earth”? Breathtaking vistas of national parks like Arches, Zions or Capitol Reef? Quality of life that is among the most desired in the country? But what about one of the fastest growing life sciences industries in America? It’s true—Utah consistently ranks among the nation’s top innovation hubs.

Utah’s Life Sciences at a Glance

Well-known companies such as ARUP Laboratories; BioFire Diagnostics, LLC; Cytiva Life Sciences; Edwards Lifesciences; Fresenius Medical Care; Merit Medical Systems, Inc.; Myriad Genetics; Nelson Labs; Stryker; Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma; Teva Pharmaceuticals, Thermo-Fisher Scientific; Varex Imaging; and more have a significant footprint in Utah, with many having international operations, including in Mexico.

In addition, newer companies such as Clene Nanomedicine, Co-Diagnostics, EVOQ Nano, Intermountain Precision Genomics, Owlet, Recursion, RenalytixAI, Sera Prognostics and Xenter offer unique and cutting-edge technologies, contributing significantly to life sciences growth in the state and this does not include the scores of earlystage companies, some of which are housed in several incubators that call Utah home.

A 2020 Biotechnology Innovation Organization report prepared by the national research firm, TEConomy Partners, showed that Utah was one of only four states with a high concentration of jobs in the medical device, pharmaceutical, laboratory and R&D areas. The other three states were California, New Jersey and Massachusetts which have been traditional leaders in life sciences.

With significant life sciences employment growth in Utah over the last decade, it follows that such a large part of the employment base in our state is concentrated in life sciences. According to this same TEConomy report, Utah ranked number six in the country in per capita funds raised by life sciences companies. Over the last year, Utah life sciences companies have raised over $1 billion in capital to fund the novel products being developed here, running well ahead of the 2020 funding mark. “We’re seeing an energy and collective drive among companies large and small to make Utah’s life sciences industry a national and global powerhouse,” said Randy Rasmussen, co-founder of BioFire and chair of BioUtah Board of Directors.

An Economic Force

Utah’s life sciences community claims over 1,000 companies, employing 130,000 Utahns, directly and indirectly, and generating $13  billion in GDP.

Those statistics come from a 2018 study by the University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute that compared employment growth across the top 20 life sciences markets in the United States. From 2012 to 2017, Utah ranked as the fastest growing life sciences sector among the top 20 markets based on average job growth. That trend has continued with Utah remaining in the top five growth markets.

What accounts for such stellar growth?

Quality of life and access to outdoor recreation consistently rank high for attracting talent and companies alike. But, more importantly, Utah is consistently recognized as one of the best states for doing business, especially for startups. Utah’s accolades are impressive:

  • #1 Best State Economy and #3 Best Overall – U.S. News & World Report – March 2021
  • #3 Top State for Business – CNBC – July 2021
  • #1 Best Economy – WalletHub – June 2021
  • #1 Best Economic Outlook for the 14th straight year – Rich States Poor States – May 2021
  • #1 Best Economy – 24/7 Wall St. Journal – August 2020
  • #2 Best Place to Start a Business – Inc. – August 2019
  • #1 Best State for Entrepreneurs in 2020 – Forbes – November 2019

Major Research Universities

Another significant reason for the growth in Utah is the strong performance of our institutions of higher learning. The University of Utah (U of U) is consistently recognized as one of the top tech-transfer universities in the country. Year after year, the U of U produces not only a well-educated workforce, but groundbreaking healthcare technologies, thanks in large part to their outstanding medical school and associated research programs.

Brigham Young University is also a premier tech transfer school that produces a well-educated workforce and unique marketable innovations that spur economic growth in Utah. In addition to these two schools, nine other institutions of higher learning contribute to our educated talent pool, including Utah State University, Weber State University and Dixie State University. Utah boasts one of the most educated citizenries of any state in the country.

Spreading the Word

Despite all this activity, the growth of the industry and its mission to innovate to change patients’ lives is not well known, but that’s about to change. BioUtah, the industry’s trade association in the state, has launched a bold new initiative to brand the industry as “BioHive,” a term created to convey, in a singular word, the totality of our life sciences ecosystem.

When the first pioneers came to Utah, it was an arid and uninviting environment for putting down roots. It required a significant amount of ingenuity and commitment to make this desert blossom. The beehive was adopted, in 1847, as an official emblem of the state, representing those settlers’ hard work and perseverance, hence Utah is known as the Beehive State.

“What better way to reflect the imagination and purposefulness of our life sciences industry than to tie our brand to those very same qualities that established the state—BioHive,” said Kelvyn Cullimore, president and CEO of BioUtah.

“By branding our industry as the BioHive, we believe it will raise the profile of Utah’s medical innovation on the local, national and global stage and recognize the significant contributions of our life sciences companies to improving the lives of people not just in Utah, but in the U.S. and around the world.”

Welcome to the BioHive!