While other states are pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into biotechnology, Illinois lags in public funding, investor-friendly tax laws, and, perhaps no surprise, private investment in its biotech startups.
One reason the state hasn't focused more on biotech may be that it hasn't had to. Service industries such as accounting, advertising, law, and finance have added plenty of jobs, reducing the need to promote a new industry like biotech for economic growth. "Illinois is a big state with a lot going on," observes Jack Lavin, director of the Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity.
Illinois' biotech outlays are relatively puny: The state has spent $79 million to build research labs and has funded the $75 million Institute for Genomic Biology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. As for encouraging private investment, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin are among states that give tax breaks to so-called angel investors. Lawmakers in Illinois are only now considering such breaks.
Bottom line: Ohio and Minnesota each received $295 million in 2007, or 25% apiece of the estimated $1.2 billion in venture capital that flowed into Midwestern health-care startups last year, according to BioEnterprise, a Cleveland outfit that helps local biotech startups. Illinois, the region's most populous state, finished fourth with $125.5 million.