Organization Focus: South Dakota Biotech

The bioscience and technology industry in Sioux Falls is strong, and South Dakota Biotech exists to make it even stronger.

As the state affiliate of the national non-profit, Biotechnology Innovation Organization, SD Biotech is a trade association formed in 2006 to support the state’s bioscience industry.

Executive Director, Joni Johnson, says the primary responsibilities include ensuring that the state’s life science industry is strong and vibrant, and members of the association are getting their business needs met.

The South Dakota chapter has around fifty members, ranging from universities to both early-stage and mature companies.

Members benefit from cost-saving partnerships with organizations like Fisher Scientific and BIO Business Solutions, as well as educational and networking opportunities throughout the year.

While networking events through SD Biotech are geared toward members, Johnson emphasizes the importance of engaging with the entire Sioux Falls community.

“This is a tough industry, it’s a complicated industry, and it’s a high risk industry,” Johnson said. “And it’s important that the business community, such as angel investors, venture capital investors, and even banks and real estate developers, understand what this industry does because it looks much different than most.”

For Sioux Falls and the state as a whole, bioscience has a significant, positive effect on economic development.

Most of the jobs created by the industry are skilled labor, generally requiring undergraduate or higher degrees. According to Johnson, the average salary in bioscience is $61,000 in South Dakota.

“These jobs that we bring to the community are well-paying, and so the footprint is really large when you bring this industry in and support it,” said Johnson.

Still, Johnson acknowledges that it’s a tough industry to break into.

“10 percent make it, and 90 percent fail,” she said. “But the 10 percent that make it are the SABs, the Alumends, the Sanfords and the Averas, and the POETs of the world. They’re making big changes in people’s lives.”

As such, Johnson is focused on promoting the industry’s opportunities, from job creation to quality of life. SD Biotech aims to be the industry’s trusted advisor in the region, and Johnson believes there’s much to be optimistic about.

“Because of the makeup of South Dakota, with agriculture being its largest industry and healthcare being its largest employer, we see biotech or ag-tech all over the place where they intersect,” Johnson said.

The Benefits of Membership

For those in the industry interested in becoming a member, the investment begins at $500 annually for entrepreneurs, start-ups, and non-profits, and it increases based on revenue.

Organizations and individuals who aren’t directly involved in the industry but maintain related activities or simply wish to support SD Biotech’s mission are also eligible for membership on the Affiliate level. Dues for affiliate members are $1,000 annually or free for students.

In addition to the cost-saving programs, members benefit from the business-to-business connections fostered by SD Biotech.

Johnson is committed to helping members access the knowledge and resources they need, and she often reaches out to colleagues in different states to stay plugged into the latest news and information.

While one might assume that the South Dakota office is small in comparison to most states, Johnson says it’s actually one of the more active branches.

“Most of us have just one employee, but we’re still pretty strong in comparison to other states,” said Johnson.

Johnson attributes this to the access SD Biotech has to important decision makers, in both the public and the private sector.

“We know how to get to the governor’s office pretty easily, and not many states can say that,” she said. “And not just the governor’s office, but the mayor’s office, Forward Sioux Falls, those sorts of organizations. You can get the group around the table that you need to get things done, and that’s a huge plus for us.”

Johnson also acknowledges the support and encouragement of these offices and organizations.

“In terms of biotech, all of those entities want it to succeed, so they’re going to do what they can to help us out,” she said.

Don’t Miss: Upcoming Events

While SD Biotech hosts a variety of events throughout the year (check out their Facebook page to see what’s coming up next), another organization is hosting an event this week that Johnson encourages those in the industry to check out.

The SBA’s Small Business Innovation & Research program (SBIR) is hosting the SBIR Road Tour on May 23, at the University Center. The Road Tour will feature eleven different federal agencies that offer non-dilutive, early-stage funding to small businesses performing tech and scientific research.

The event is open to the public, but Johnson says it’s only relevant to businesses actively seeking funding.

Those interested in applying for funding at the Road Tour should prepare a quad chart explaining their area of research, its application, cost, and development. Questions can be directed to Gary Archamboult, Program Director for SBIR, at (605) 367-5757. 

Additionally, SD Biotech will be hosting its largest event of the year in the fall. On October 8, the South Dakota Biotech Annual Summit will be held at the Washington Pavilion.

“It’ll be an all-day affair featuring a variety of speakers,” said Johnson.

The event will be open to the public, and information regarding registration fees and speakers will be announced at a later date.

Two Things You Can Do This Week:

  • Keep up with the latest news by following SD Biotech on Twitter and Facebook, and email Joni at [email protected] if you’d like to be signed up for their newsletter.
  • If you’re interested in membership, fill out an application on the SD Biotech website.