Biotech expert: S.D. is emerging as a leader

This piece is presented by South Dakota Biotech.

Biotech leader Dan Jenkins came to South Dakota to help break ground for a major biotech project.

He left impressed with everything happening in the state to grow the biotech industry.

Jenkins is the senior director of food and ag for the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, or BIO, a trade association representing biotech in 30 countries. Here’s what he had to say about the significance of SAB Biotherapeutics’ new project and the future of biotech in South Dakota.

Dan Jenkins

You recently helped celebrate the groundbreaking of SAB’s pharm in South Dakota. What makes this such a significant project in biotech?

The work being done in the animal biotech sector is so exciting right now. We’re seeing scientists and biotech entrepreneurs use genetic engineering in animals to produce innovative lifesaving therapies, enhance animal health and welfare, protect the environment and produce food more sustainably. In the case of the SAB pharm, this is really a first-of-its-kind facility where SAB will use cattle to produce human antibody immunotherapies. This is an impressive example of company growth in an industry that is just beginning to a realize some of the promises that biotechnology holds.

Is this the sort of project and breakthrough company that will make people in your industry take notice of South Dakota when maybe they haven’t before? Do you see it leading to future opportunities? 

South Dakota is emerging as a leader in the biotech sector – thanks in large part of the support of South Dakota Biotech, BIO’s state affiliate, which advocates and networks each day as part of its mission to expand the state’s bioscience industry.

In addition, Gov. Daugaard has been an outstanding supporter of the biotechnology industry in his state. He understands the importance of innovation in reinvigorating the economy and creating jobs in a new world.

The state already has an established animal biotech presence with four to five companies located in or near Sioux Falls. Considering there are only a handful of these kinds of companies worldwide, that makes the area the animal biotech hub of the world. But the state is also a center for researchers and businesses working on bioenergy and biofuels production, pharmaceutical, medical devices and equipment manufacturing, and seed technology. That business climate is attractive to startups and early-stage companies.

Here’s what’s next for massive biotech project

What are your overall impressions of biotech activity in South Dakota and how it’s growing?

South Dakota has been a welcoming home for biotechnology research and business for years — especially in the growing field of animal biotechnology. A distinguished list of biotech companies have chosen to make South Dakota their home.

In addition to supporting industry growth, South Dakota – and the Sioux Falls area in particular – is fortunate to have some esteemed university partners such as South Dakota State and the University of South Dakota along the I-29 corridor, as well as the tremendous support of the Sanford Research organization.

Along with unprecedented support from the governor’s office and South Dakota Biotech, this network of industry and academia is committed to fostering growth and innovation in the biosciences arena.

What do you feel is the greatest potential or untapped opportunity to expand biotech in South Dakota?

South Dakota produces the sixth-highest concentration of graduates with bioscience-related degrees in the country, but we need these talented individuals to stay in our industry. The importance of our industry’s partnerships with the area’s academic institutions cannot be overstated. South Dakota encourages innovation, and that message needs to reach the pool of talent in our labs and universities.

Are there any ways you think South Dakota could be doing more to support biotech in the state?

There’s so much new development already happening in the area for early-stage companies, as well as for large-scale companies. More attention could be paid to recruiting medium-sized businesses, to make the industry more well-rounded in South Dakota. To support those companies, more emphasis could be placed on economic support mechanisms like tax incentives. Growing the presence of midsized organizations can reinforce the state’s already strong network.

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Biotech expert: S.D. is emerging as a leader

Biotech leader Dan Jenkins came to South Dakota to help break ground for a major biotech project. He left impressed with everything happening in the state to grow the biotech industry.

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