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Lehigh Valley’s Life Sciences Sector Gets Lift from Health Care Resources

By Colin McEvoy on February 10, 2017

Tyber Medical, a medical device manufacturer, relocated in 2015 from New Jersey to Hanover Township in Northampton County. (photo courtesy Journal Communications)

Tyber Medical, a medical device manufacturer, relocated in 2015 from New Jersey to Hanover Township in Northampton County. (photo courtesy Journal Communications)

This story first appeared in the third issue of the Lehigh Valley Economic Development magazine, a publication developed by LVEDC and Journal Communications. This magazine highlights the region’s competitive advantages for targeted sectors, as well as providing an overview of the region’s business climate, livability, transportation infrastructure, and other economic assets.

A roster of highly ranked health-care providers combined with standout higher education institutions and access to a supply of skilled workers has fashioned a vibrant and growing life sciences and biotech sector in Lehigh Valley.

Lehigh Valley is home to highly ranked health care providers, many of which are expanding and forming partnerships.

One example of that is a partnership between the Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) and Memorial Sloan Kettering, the renowned New York City-based cancer research and treatment center. LVHN is just one of two hospital systems nationally in the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Alliance, which allows LVHN patients to participate in clinical trials that would have previously only been available to Sloan Kettering patients.

“LHVN has been offering clinical trials for over 30 years, and that’s partly why (Sloan Kettering) picked us,” says Dr. Suresh Nair, medical director of the LVHN Cancer Institute and director of oncology trials. “They’re looking for community cancer programs that already had a strong infrastructure for clinical trials and had high quality cancer care and high enough volumes of patients being treated there.”

Training Tomorrow’s Healers

LVHN has a longstanding partnership with the University of South Florida (USF) to help train physicians from the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine in Tampa. Students spend their first two years taking classes in Tampa, and two years of clinical education with the LVHN.

St. Luke’s University Health Network, operator of seven hospitals and more than 200 health care sites, partners with Temple University School of Medicine to offer the only traditional medical school in the region, as well as a nursing school. Sacred Heart Hospital, which recently debuted a new patient wing, has more than 30,000 annual patient visits, also includes 12 primary-care and convenient-care centers and health nurses based in underserved parts of the region. Easton Hospital, a 238-bed facility with 294 active physicians, provides multiple specialties to its community.

Med Tech Plants Roots

A report by Garner Economics for the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) noted the region’s strong core of healthcare providers as key attributes in drawing life science research and manufacturing investment.

Other advantages Lehigh Valley offers for life sciences investment include:

  • A strong existing local pool of high-demand occupations.
  • A high relative proportion of residents with bachelor’s degrees in engineering.
  • Strong post-secondary completion activity at local colleges and universities in engineering fields and in biological and biomedical sciences.

The region’s location, about two hours from Philadelphia and central New Jersey, puts it in the heart of the nation’s pharmaceutical and biotech corridor.

B Braun Medical, which makes infusion therapy and pain management products, makes its U.S. headquarters in Bethlehem and also has a manufacturing operation in the region.

Daiichi Sankyo, a Japanese pharmaceutical company, operates a manufacturing and packaging operation in Bethlehem Township, its first U.S. manufacturing operation. OraSure Technologies, a company that began in Bethlehem, was commissioned by the federal government to help fight the spread of the Ebola virus.

Tyber Medical, a medical device manufacturer, relocated in 2015 from New Jersey to Hanover Township in Northampton County, a move expected to create 25 jobs.

CEO Jeff Tyber says the company considered relocating to New York, Colorado and elsewhere in Pennsylvania, but found Lehigh Valley’s cost of living, local and state incentives, and quality of life it could offer employees advantageous.

The company received financing assistance for specialized equipment for its new site through a Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority loan program.

The company has hired an additional 10 employees since its move and is expanding into approximately 4,000 additional square feet of space.

“It’s an area that’s rooted pretty deeply with both higher education, as well as medical devices and the medical community,” says Tyber.

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