Puerto Rico’s biosciences sector, which accounts for about 28 percent of the island’s gross domestic product and generates more than 100,000 direct and indirect jobs, will look for ways to transform its future during its 10th annual “Biosciences Week” event this week.
The five-day agenda (Sept. 16-20) includes plant visits, regional activities, exhibits at the House and Senate, and a presentation by the Smithsonian Institute, said Iván Lugo, executive director of event organizer INDUNIV Research Consortium, a nonprofit organization representing industry, government and the academic sector that promotes the island’s competitiveness in science and technology.
“We must continue to work together on Puerto Rico’s development, innovation and competitive excellence,” said Lugo. “This is an opportunity to spread the word on that, and on the fact that everything that’s done through biotechnology is meant to improve our people’s quality of life. That’s why we should participate in biosciences week.”
Puerto Rico’s biosciences sector has historically been active and productive. Companies established on the island produce five of the world’s top 10 blockbuster drugs, while eight out of the top 10 pharmaceutical companies have local operations.
“We haven’t lost our global leadership. Our strategy is to protect the industries we already have in Puerto Rico, achieve expansions to guarantee that when new products and projects come along, we have the capacity to accept them and get companies that have either left or don’t have presence on the island to set up operations here,” said Antonio Medina, executive director of the Puerto Rico Industrial Development Company, who officially proclaimed this week as Biosciences Week.
Medina, who brought more than 20 years of manufacturing industry experience to his government post, added that Puerto Rico should take advantage of the skills that make it competitive as an investment destination, including human capital and infrastructure.
“Pridco’s strategy is simple: to create sustainable economic development and new jobs, which starts by protecting key, anchor industries such as bioscience companies,” he said. “Although the pharmaceutical sector has been experiencing a global recession due to patent losses, the bioscience, medical devices and biotechnology sectors are growing so we must leverage our skills, infrastructure, and human talent.”
While all of that may ring true, Puerto Rico still has the challenge of working together to change perceptions on and off the island to restart the sector’s growth.
Meanwhile, Juan Pablo Gutiérrez, president of the Puerto Rico Bio Alliance, said the sector’s future can be found in schools and colleges, where a special focus is being placed to find the next generation of scientists.