Estimating the biotech sector's contribution to the US economy

Journal name:
Nature Biotechnology
Volume:
34,
Pages:
247–255
Year published:
DOI:
doi:10.1038/nbt.3491
Published online

US biotech sector revenue is estimated to have grown on average >10% each year over the past decade—much faster than the rest of the economy. A more comprehensive assessment of biotech's economic contribution, however, will require improved data collection, classification and analysis.

At a glance

Figures

  1. 2012 biotech revenues in the United States were >[dollar]324 billion.
    Figure 1: 2012 biotech revenues in the United States were >$324 billion.

    (a) Contributions by subsector to total revenues. US biologics revenues were compiled from a published drug-by-drug breakdown of global data12. GM crop revenues include farm-scale revenues, seeds and licensing. B, billions. (b) Breakdown of industrial business-to-business biotech revenues, as reported by Agilent Technologies15, scaled to remove the cost of GM corn from biofuels revenues. Food and ag includes food biotech (e.g., additives and enzymes); ag refers to biochemicals and animal biotech products used in agriculture. Biochemicals are any chemical produced by biological means; biologics feedstocks are otherwise known as active pharmaceutical ingredients. The consumer-scale revenues (i.e., the ultimate monetary value to consumers) from the products of industrial biotech are unknown but are larger than the business-to-business revenues described by Agilent. A version of this figure is available from Biodesic (Seattle; http://www.biodesic.com) for use under a Creative Commons license.

  2. US farm-scale revenues and market penetration of GM crops.
    Figure 2: US farm-scale revenues and market penetration of GM crops.

    (a) Total US revenues from GM crops and seeds and farm-scale revenues of major GM crops. Seed and licensing revenues were compiled from annual ISAAA Briefs. Revenues were calculated with annual average crop prices as provided by the USDA Economic Research Service (ERS). (b) US market penetration of five GM crops. Data are from USDA ERS surveys. Large annual changes in revenues are driven by crop prices rather than by new products or by changes in market penetration. Versions of these plots are available from Biodesic (Seattle) for use under a Creative Commons license.

  3. Estimated total annual US biotech revenues from 1980 to 2012.
    Figure 3: Estimated total annual US biotech revenues from 1980 to 2012.

    Bars show approximate biologics revenue data and GM crop and industrial revenue estimates and shaded areas are interpolations of individual sub-sectors (Supplementary Methods). The inset shows sub-sector annual growth rates between 2000 and 2012, calculated from the interpolations. Inset shows subsector annual growth rates between 2000 and 2012. The wide annual swings in the growth rate of GM crop revenues are due primarily to fluctuations in prices.

  4. Contribution of biotech revenue to US GDP and GDP growth.
    Figure 4: Contribution of biotech revenue to US GDP and GDP growth.

    (a) Percentage of total GDP growth contributed by biotech revenue growth (red line), and biotech revenues as percentage of GDP (blue line). The 2010 contribution of biotech revenue growth to GDP growth reached an anomalously large 8% due to the low overall growth of the US economy. (b) Current dollar growth of US GDP and US biotech revenues. The 2009 datum is omitted owing to negative total GDP growth that year. Biotech revenue estimates, reported in the year in which they were booked by the industry, are compared with current dollar GDP figures from the US Department of Commerce Bureau of Economic Analysis that are not adjusted for inflation.

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Affiliations

  1. Bioeconomy Capital LLC and Biodesic LLC, Seattle, Washington, USA.

    • Robert Carlson

Competing financial interests

R.C. is the Managing Director of an investment fund that operates in biotechnology.

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Supplementary information

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