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Charleston Business

Life sciences continues to quietly grow behind the scenes, but more skilled workers are needed

Jan 16, 2019 11:01AM ● By Kathleen Maris
By Dustin Waters

The diagnosis for South Carolina’s life science industry sees the medtech sector leading the way with rapid growth, followed by steady but continued growth in pharma and further advancements of digital health. That’s all according to Sam Konduros, president and CEO of SCBIO, which worked with the state Department of Commerce and industry experts to craft the South Carolina’s life science strategic plan.

“In a state that is well known for building BMWs and Boeing Dreamliners, there is quietly a very strong life science story brewing,” says Konduros.

Among the state’s recent gains in medical technology is global orthopedic medical device company Arthrex Inc.’s plan to create more than 1,000 new jobs with their new 200,000-square-foot facility. Arthrex joins Poly-Med in Anderson County, along with Abbott Labs in Pickens, AVX in Fountain Inn, and Zeus in Orangeburg, as some of the state’s leading medtech companies.

According to Konduros, the pharmaceutical industry has strong roots in South Carolina, and this sector will continue to see steady growth in 2019. 

The digital health sector is also seeing a great deal of activity around the state. This includes ChartSpan, a company that began as a two-person operation at Greenville’s Iron Yard incubator before developing what would temporarily become the most downloaded healthcare app in the country. ChartSpan now employs more than 300 people inside their 100,000 square-foot office space in downtown Greenville.

As the life science industry enters 2019, the biggest challenge is finding the necessary talent to fuel the industry’s workforce. Konduros sets the state’s short-term solutions at ensuring South Carolina’s training materials are among the top in the nation, while the long-term focus should be on developing STEM strategies for grades K-12.

“This is an industry that demands talent in an unforgiving way. It really wants and needs a well-educated workforce. Gratefully, South Carolina has a terrific workforce, and it’s getting stronger and better educated,” he says. 

“We’re a fast-growing state and continue to attract a lot of talent, but it is very difficult when unemployment rates are as low as they are right now and there are so many other industries growing rapidly,” Konduros adds. “We have clearly stated this is not something we can leave to chance. It has to be one of the critical strategies over the next year for SCBIO, for the Commerce Department, and for many of our stakeholders.”