by Agnieszka Carpenter
Nearly 200 people representing 85 different companies, organizations and educational institutions gathered at the University of Southern Maine in Portland in September for the BioME (Bioscience Association of Maine) annual conference.
The theme of this year’s conference was building the ecosystem for Maine’s life science economy. Panel discussions included building career pathways for Maine bioscience talent, starting as young as middle school. Kate Howell, from Educate Maine, unveiled the new Mobile Learning Lab which will launch in February of 2024. BioME is a lead sponsor of the lab, funded by over $1 million in federal, state and private funds. It will travel to schools throughout Maine and offer students a hands-on, immersive science experience and introduce them to life science careers in Maine.
“The Mobile Learning Lab will engage students in the life sciences to prepare more learners to enter the workforce and funnel them into the many career opportunities available to them right here in Maine,” said Kate Howell, director of workforce partnerships for Educate Maine.
Other talks centered on the need for more investment in research and development to put Maine on par with other New England states. Maine lawmakers are considering a bill (LD 416) to authorize a 100 million general fund bond issue for research and development in life sciences. Attendees were encouraged to engage with their local lawmakers in support of the legislation.
The conference also highlighted BioME’s efforts to strengthen collaboration among organizations that support Maine’s life sciences economy, including attending the BIO International Convention in Boston last June as a united group that included BioME, The Roux Institute at Northeastern University, FocusMaine, Maine Department of Economic and Community Development and Maine International Trade Center.
Maine is home to 484 life science organizations that provide nearly 10,000 jobs in sectors including pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing, medical diagnostic laboratories and scientific research and development. The conference highlighted the need to make sure Maine can provide the workforce and business climate companies need to grow and to encourage more to choose Maine as their home.
With a life science job growth of 42% in the past five years, life sciences has significantly outpaced job growth in all industries in Maine. BioME wants to keep up that momentum.
Agnieszka Carpenter is executive director at Bioscience Association of Maine.