Panel Discusses Lehigh Valley’s Life Sciences and Medical Manufacturing Sector
By Colin McEvoy on March 16, 2021
Life sciences and medical manufacturing is one of the Lehigh Valley’s most exciting economic sectors, and a growing industry of focus since the coronavirus pandemic began.
That’s why the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) sat down with leaders from some of the impressive and growing life sciences companies in the region during a roundtable discussion at the organization’s annual meeting program.
“A micro-cluster of about 180 life science companies are in the Lehigh Valley today,” said LVEDC President & CEO Don Cunningham. “They’re attracted to the region’s colleges, large health networks, quality of life, talent and manufacturing and distribution capabilities.”
Cunningham led the panel discussion via Zoom with Kyle Flanigan, CEO of U.S. Specialty Formulations (USSF) Sam Niedbala, founder & CEO of CryoConcepts; and Salvatore J. Salamone, founder & CEO of Saladax Biomedical.
The discussion was first broadcast on March 16 as part of the LVEDC 2021 Annual Meeting program, which can be viewed on the organization’s Facebook page and YouTube channel. It can also be watched below:
“All three of your companies are so impressive in the depth of their reach and the engagement in such critical fields,” Cunningham said. “I think a lot of folks don’t realize that the Lehigh Valley (has) such a growing and developing life sciences, biomed, and tech center, but each of you have been here for decades.”
The year 2020 marked the highest employment in the life sciences sector over the last two decades, Cunningham said, with about 6,300 workers and an average wage of $94,000 per year.
CryoConcepts is a Bethlehem-based medical device developer and manufacturer that makes products aimed at delivering cryogenic gases for a wide range of medical professionals in the most efficient way possible.
Niedbala said the Lehigh Valley is an appealing location for companies in his sector due to the quality of the workforce and the community’s close connection to the many high-quality colleges and universities in the region.
“We really have become this medical device area with a lot of people who were young when I was young (are now) growing up, becoming experts, and now teaching other generations,” Niedbala said. “We’re starting to see the children of our first employees coming on board as employees.”
Salamone agreed that the Lehigh Valley’s skilled and talented workforce is a great asset for the region, along with the fact that housing and the cost of living in the area are so much more affordable than in other major metropolitan areas or cities,
“There’s a tremendous talent pool in this area,” Salamone said. “We have so many colleges and universities that we have no problems getting highly-qualified individuals. The schools in this area produce excellent candidates.”
Saladax, based in Bethlehem, is a precision medicine company that develops rapid blood tests to increase the impact of personalized medicine by bringing adherence testing to psychiatrists and chemotherapeutic drug monitoring to oncologists
USSF is an Allentown-based manufacturer of sterile injectable pharmaceuticals. The company cost-effectively produces specialty formulations of pharmaceuticals in small to medium sized batches for larger pharmaceutical and healthcare organizations.
Flanigan said the company is planning to hire 100 more people in the next 2 to 3 years. He complimented the Lehigh Valley’s well-developed transportation infrastructure and proximity to several major highways and airports.
“We scoured the country looking for a variety of places to locate (our) facility,” Flanigan said. “Really we narrowed it down to two, and the Lehigh Valley was one of them”
All three companies have been associated with Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania, and Saladax is still anchored at Ben Franklin TechVentures, the program’s Bethlehem-based technology business incubator.
Salamone is from New Jersey and had considered starting that state “fairly unfriendly environment” for startup companies.
“In setting up Saladax, I saw that the Lehigh Valley was really a good place to start up a business,” Salamone said. “… I found that Ben Franklin and the state of Pennsylvania was just welcoming and made it easy to start up a company… though it’s never easy to start up a company.”
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