S.C. life science group names new leader as young industry gains attention

A longtime booster of the Upstate’s economy is taking on a new challenge with a broader reach and a narrower focus: growing South Carolina’s nascent life sciences industry.

SCBIO – a trade group representing biotechnology companies – has named Sam Konduros its next president and CEO, a move that comes as state officials increasingly eye the business as a target for South Carolina’s economy.

Konduros, a former SCBIO board member, comes to the group from the Greenville Health System, where he ran an office that helped doctors take their inventions to market. Previously, he was the first president of the Upstate SC Alliance, the region’s economic-development agency.

At Greenville-based SCBIO – short for the S.C. Biotechnology Industry Organization – he’ll be tasked with helping to grow an industry that’s only recently taken shape here.

The life sciences cover a broad mix of companies, from firms developing new drugs and researchers inventing medical devices to the manufacturers that make them. And while the state has a toehold into most corners of the sector, it’s still relatively small here, employing about 17,500 workers statewide.

“It’s a young industry that has the opportunity to grow into a powerful economic bookend for South Carolina,” Konduros said.

The group’s outgoing president, Wayne Roper, is credited with helping to map out its extent. His last task in the role is to finish a study backed by the S.C. Commerce Department outlining what life science companies are in the state, and where it’s best poised to grow.

When he starts next month, Konduros’s job will be to take those findings and bring them to fruition. The issues facing the life sciences industry, meantime, aren’t so different from the state’s technology sector as a whole.

New companies face challenges finding investments to fund their early operations before revenue rolls in. And the state is often overlooked amid regional powerhouses like Atlanta and North Carolina’s Research Triangle.

Konduros says he’d like to turn that tide by marketing South Carolina to investors and industry executives – to sell them on the state’s research universities and its emerging startup community. And he expects to take that message to the state’s General Assembly, too.

Meantime, economic-development agencies have warmed to the sector recently. At the Commerce Department, the state Council on Competitiveness is now targeting biotech as a growth area for the state. And in the Lowcountry, the Charleston Regional Development Alliance is studying the sector as well.

“We’re at a critical time for that growth,” said Erin Ford, SCBIO’s board chair. “When you have change it’s an opportunity to really listen and take stock.”

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