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Biotech leaders answer the question “Why Delaware?”

4 June, 2019 | Holly Quinn

June 3 marks the day DowDuPont was officially laid to rest, and DuPont rose again.

Actually, it’s a lot more complicated than that, but the long-planned DowDuPont “three-way-split” means that Delaware has a “new” DuPont Company focusing on science and innovation products (including clean water tech and smart electronics) and a new agriscience company, Corteva, both with headquarters in Wilmington.

(DuPont’s former chemical branch, Chemours, is still based in Delaware, with brand-new construction going up on the University of Delaware STAR Campus in Newark.)

The two companies currently have about 100 job openings in Delaware, and that’s expected to rise by quite a bit post-split.

As it happens, June 3 was also the kickoff of the international BIO2019 in Philadelphia, and DelawareBio hosted the Biotech Ecosystem Tour, starting at Incyte in Wilmington and ending at the STAR Campus.

Some of Delaware’s biotech leaders — including Christiana Care Health System CEO Janice NevinIncyte CEO Hervé HoppenotAdesis CEO Andrew Cottone and LabWare CEO Vance Kershner, along with Delaware Secretary of State Jeff BullockDelaware Prosperity Partnership CEO Kurt Foreman and Delaware Innovation Space CEO Bill Provine — participated in a panel as part of the event.

The big question: Why should biotech companies choose Delaware?

“Delaware is small in size but big in spirit,” said Hoppenot, whose cancer pharmaceutical company (which unveiled its new global headquarters on the former site of Wanamakers on Augustine Cutoff in 2017) has hired about 1200 people over the last couple of years. “It’s near Penn and Johns Hopkins. The talent is here.”

And, while Delaware’s proximity to Philadelphia, New York and Washington D.C. is considered a draw for all kinds of industries, when it comes to biotech, that advantage is magnified.

“Washington to New York is the new ‘Innovation Corridor,’” said Nevin, “and we’re right in the middle of it.”

And our neighbors are not the competition, as the industry in the region often works together.

“It would be different if we were an island,” said Foreman.

Some advantages call back to the state’s DuPont legacy.

“There are a lot of “retired” scientists in Delaware helping companies get things done,” said Kershner. “You won’t find that anywhere else.”

Cottone’s phrase “Delaware moves at the speed on entrepreneurship” made an impact on the panelists, who agreed — the entrepreneurial ecosystem for biotech is fast-moving, from fast-turnaround funding to speedy access to wet labs and work spaces.

The state has strong legislation that protects intellectual property, an Angel Investor’s Tax Credit and EDGE grants for small businesses.

“We’re not a backwater town,” said Secretary of State Bullock. “We can run with the big dogs.”