SCBIO CEO Sam Konduros spoke Thursday to the Greenwood Partnership Alliance about the state’s emerging life sciences sector.

As far as Sam Konduros is concerned, the Palmetto State boasts a surprise player among the major hubs for cutting edge biotech study.

“When I talk about the four major research institutions in the state of South Carolina, it’s our three research universities and Greenwood Genetic (Center), that’s how good that team is,” Konduros, CEO of SCBIO, told the Greenwood Partnership Alliance’s board this week. “People don’t know South Carolina as a life sciences story, they don’t know Greenwood, so we’re really surprising our own population with what we do have, and then we’re spending a lot of time trying to make sure that message is getting out around the world.”

Internationally known for its production of high-end sports cars and passenger jets, the state also boasts a bustling life sciences industry that employs more than 42,000 people and generates nearly $12 billion a year in economic output.

“Our life science industry has often been kind of in the shadow of the Triangle Research Park and in Atlanta with the Centers for Disease Control and Emory (University) where the HIV cocktail was created. I think we accepted this role of kind of being the valley of humility between those two areas for a long time. The truth is that we’ve got a great story but we’ve never created a brand, really, for the South Carolina life sciences story,” Konduros said.

Formed in 2004, SCBIO is a nonprofit economic development and advocacy organization for the state’s life sciences cluster. Konduros came on board in September 2017 and is the founding president of the Upstate Alliance, a 10-county consortium that includes Greenwood.

SCBIO has developed new partnerships with the state’s Department of Commerce, and its board of directors is a cross-section of private and public sector representatives, including Greenwood Partnership Alliance CEO Heather Simmons Jones.

“We’ve got a great labor force in South Carolina. We arguably have the best technical college system in the country, I would say, maybe arguably the best training for industry in the country with ReadySC, but we’re not quite ready for life sciences,” Konduros said. “In terms of the certificate programs, in terms of the degrees, courses, automotive, aerospace, we’re really there. Those are kinds of things we have to work on to make sure when unemployment is hovering around 3 and 5% around the state and you’re in an industry that’s lesser known, there’s lesser people with backgrounds in it and you’re trying to recruit world-class companies coming in.”

Greenwood is no stranger to the sector. Home to Lonza and Cardinal Health, Konduros said the area’s business-friendly reputation and close ties European hubs makes it a prime candidate for more biotech growth.

“I think Greenwood is exceptionally poised to benefit,” Konduros said.

James Bateman, Greenwood Partnership Alliance’s director of business development, said the affiliation with SCBIO has opened networking opportunities as well — potential ties that could bring investment dollars.

“Establishing those relationships with life science consultants who have those connections in major markets I think is going to help fill in the (industrial) park,” he said.

Contact staff writer Adam Benson at 864-943-5650 or on Twitter @ABensonIJ.