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Life Science Caucus launched in Delaware legislature

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A new caucus devoted to the advancement of life sciences in Delaware has been founded by Reps. Michael Smith and Krista Griffith. | PHOTO COURTESY OF EVAN KRAPE/UD

DOVER – With the First State home to bioscience giants like AstraZeneca and Incyte, and a growing number of successful startups like Prelude Therapeutics, a group of state legislators are now aiming to support the sector through the new Life Science Caucus.

Rep. Michael Smith

The bipartisan caucus, or group of legislators interested in a particular topic, was founded by Reps. Mike Smith (R-Pike Creek) and Krista Griffith (D-Fairfax/Hockessin), who will co-chair the coalition. 

It will serve as a forum for exchanging information on bioscience research and business development across Delaware’s life science research community with the goal of informing policies and programs to catalyze the growth of the sector in Delaware. Its first scheduled meeting will be held virtually on May 10. Organizers said the meetings will include presentations from academic and private research organizations on topics ranging from scientific advancements, diversity and training efforts, and entrepreneurial support, among others.

According to the Delaware Bioscience Association, the chief trade association for the sector, more than 8,000 people are employed in Delaware’s life or bioscience industry, working across hundreds of different establishments of every size with an average wage of $114,000. The sector accounts for millions of dollars in investment and research grants, including $52 million in National Institutes of Health grants in 2019, another $70 million in academic research and development investment annually, and nearly $300 million in venture capital investments over a three-year period.

“Companies and researchers across the state have played a key role in combating the global COVID-19 pandemic through development of vaccines, diagnostics, and production of essential protective equipment,” said Michael Fleming, president of the Delaware BioScience Association, in a statement. “Delaware researchers are on the cutting edge of gene editing technology and pediatric medical advances. The state has a rare opportunity to ensure and accelerate the continued growth of the biosciences here, making Delaware a magnet for investment, life-saving innovation, and job growth – and this new caucus will be a critical vehicle for making that happen.”

Smith said that understanding the state’s “dynamic and growing bioscience community” was essential to being able to support it through policy and funding proposals.

“The biosciences are so critical from both a public health and economic standpoint for our state and the world. This caucus will be an important platform for listening, learning, and sharing information on the science, technology, and investment so vital to the state’s future,” Smith said in a statement.

Rep. Krista Griffith

Griffith noted that the sector impacts both Delaware’s public health through product discovery as well as its economic health through sustained and continued employment of well-paying jobs.

“With thousands of residents working in this growing field, it’s my hope that this new legislative group will educate and advocate for policies to facilitate a strong industry for years to come,” she said in a statement. “Personally, I want to focus on expanding opportunities in the biosciences for women and minorities and explore ways to partner with our colleges to train the next generation of workers in a rewarding and valuable field.”

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