If you notice all the countries, states, and municipalities actively courting biotech companies, you might think science-based businesses are a surefire guarantee of a strong local economy. By last count, 43 of the 50 states in the United States were looking to bioscience as an economic savior. (Here, the term "bioscience" includes all biotech, medical device, specialty pharma, and large pharmaceutical companies.) While no official tally exists, these states in the aggregate have pledged more than $8 billion to attract this industry. This is staggering when you consider the entire US biotechnology industry consists of only 1,475 companies employing less than 200,000 people. The commitment by these states therefore translates into $5.4 million per company, or $40,000 per employee in the biotech sector.

Attend any Biotechnology Industry Organization event and you will see hordes of government officials wooing biotech companies of all stages of development. Can they all be right?...

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