Getting Serious About Biotech: Challenges and Opportunities for Puerto Rico

The scientific discovery of DNA by Francis Crick and James Watson in the mid 20th century has had profound implications that have not only transformed the world of science, but also the way in which economic development is sought at the turn of the millennium. Today, gene splicing, cloning and other procedures heretofore conceived of as exclusive to academia are being discussed in corpo- rate boardrooms and public hearings while scientists and engineers-turned- entrepreneurs have become the leaders of a blossoming industrial sector that focuses on the technologies of life or biotechnologies. The rapid growth of this relatively novel industry has been fueled by the increasing market opportunities and the promises of riches and economic expansion that lie ahead with each new scientific breakthrough.

This distinct marriage of science and economics has become one of the fastest growing sectors of advanced and developing economies and consequently the new focus for economic development practitioners at diverse levels. The list of cities and regions that have jumped on the biotech bandwagon is expanding fast. In the United States, for example, a survey of 77 local and 36 state economic development agencies reported that 83 percent listed biotechnology as one of the top two targets for industrial development (Cortright and Meyer, 2002, p.6). Similarly, it has been reported that several state governments in India have invested large sums of capital in an attempt to encourage the growth of the sec- tor which they expect will employ a million skilled persons and generate annual revenues of $5 billion by 2010 (, 2005).

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