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Charleston Business

SCbio Conference Spotlights State’s Burgeoning Life Sciences Industry

Apr 25, 2023 12:22PM ● By Donna Isbell Walker and David Dykes

Life sciences is driving South Carolina’s economy forward.

It is the fastest growing segment of the state’s knowledge economy, with a $25.7 billion annual economic impact, according to SCbio, the Palmetto State’s life sciences economic development organization and industry association.

The state’s blossoming life sciences industry took the spotlight recently at the SCBio 2023 conference in Charleston. 

The two-day event was held Feb. 22-23 at the Gaillard Center, and it featured keynote speaker Dr. V.K. Gadi, deputy director of the UI Cancer Center, who discussed advances in breast cancer research. 

In addition, there were panel discussions about venture capital trends, health care trends, life sciences innovation in South Carolina, and the world of sports medicine.

“South Carolina is entering a new era as a global leader in life sciences,” James Chappell, Ph.D., president and CEO of SCbio, told the audience of about 500 people. “Revenue has grown sixfold.”

In its 2022 annual report, SCbio says 42 of the state’s 46 counties had a life sciences presence, and the state had more than 1,033 life sciences firms, up from 402 in 2017. 

“Today in South Carolina, life sciences are vital to job creation, innovation, investment, economic diversification, and quality of life,” Chappell said. “Our momentum is undeniable. And the world has taken notice.”

The key areas of focus for the industry are workforce, policy, partnerships, innovation and entrepreneurship, and telling South Carolina’s story, Chappell said.

The event also featured SC Life Sciences Awards, given to people and organizations who have made outstanding contributions in the industry.

The Pinnacle Award for South Carolina Life Sciences Individual Contributor of the Year went to Dr. Stephen Cutler, dean of the University of South Carolina College of Pharmacy, who is the author or co-author of 50 patents. He was cited for his work in developing saliva-based Covid-19 tests and his research on plants that act on the central nervous system. 

Lou Kennedy, president, owner, and CEO of Nephron Pharmaceuticals and co-founder of the Kennedy Pharmacy Innovation Center, received the Special Lifetime Achievement Award for Exceptional Contributions to the Industry.

Abbott Laboratories received the Pinnacle Award for Organizational Contributions, and the Rising Star Award was presented to Caroline Brown, chief external affairs officer for Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.

The conference culminated with the “Rapid Fire: South Carolina Super Pitch,” a competition with a $5,000 prize. Three South Carolina-based companies, Zylo Therapeutics, Elevate Therapeutics, and PensieVision, each had 10 minutes to make a pitch to the audience and a panel of judges.

Greenville’s Zylo Therapeutics won the competition for its “next-generation topical drug delivery” through Z-pods, which encapsulate a product’s active ingredients to make application easier and more targeted. 

The company is working on pods to treat cutaneous lupus erythematosus, erectile dysfunction, and other conditions. 

Next year’s SCbio conference will move from Charleston, its long-time location, to Greenville.