I was just reading Gray Swope’s blog, “Strong Momentum in Florida for the Life Sciences Industry” in the Florida Biotechnology News and I had to present a contrary view.

Hey, I’m as interested in growing the Life Sciences in Florida as anyone else, and I believe we have great potential – for the future.  However, we have many difficult things to do before we get there.  The first is to stop fooling ourselves into thinking we are already successful.  It just isn’t true.

The numbers that are often quoted to support the contention that Florida is doing great are misleading from at least two points of view.

First, they only look at Florida itself, and do not compare it to our competition.   A growth from 10 companies to 20 is a 100% growth, but that is insignificant compared to a 20% growth from 1000 to 1200 companies.  Anyone can get a good growth rate from a base close to zero.  A better measure is to see what other people are doing.

If you want some comparison, check out The York Times of yesterday and read the story about “Biotech Players Lead a Boom in Cambridge”.  In that one city, within walking distance, “…eight separate construction sites in this area, and roughly two million square feet of space is being built or renovated or is under city review here,” all for biotech.  That is more space than we have, now, in all of Florida.  THAT is success.

Second, the numbers include agricultural chemicals and pharmaceutical distribution companies.  While these are important, they are not what people normally think of as Life Science companies, and they make up a large portion of the totals.  If we look at only the “traditional” life science sectors – biotech, pharma, medical devices and research, the numbers are even less impressive.

The picture is not all bleak, but we must be realistic about the situation before we can decide what to do to improve things.  For some excellent ideas about how to do that, check out Doug Poretz’s blog on the subject, or his comment on Nancy Dahlberg’s blog at the Miami Herald.

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