PHOTO CREDIT: MEDICINE.STONYBROOKMEDICINE.EDU

Dr. Lina Obeid, above, dean for research of SBU’s School of Medicine, is optimistic for science and medicine as a whole after it was stated in a report that biomedical prominence is key to Long Island’s economic resurgence. PHOTO CREDIT: MEDICINE.STONYBROOKMEDICINE.EDU

By Christopher Leelum and Jakub Lewkowicz

The Long Island economy is stagnating in many aspects and needs a multi-faceted rescue effort, according to a new report by HR&A Advisors Inc., an economic, real estate and energy consulting firm.

The report, titled “Long Island’s Future: Economic Implications of Today’s Choices,” stated that the island’s biomedical prominence is a key leverage point for its resurgence. Places like Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Brookhaven National Laboratory and Stony Brook University will carry the torch for Long Island’s revival.

“In formulating an economic development strategy, it is advisable for a region to focus on an industry cluster where it already has a competitive set of assets to build off, rather than attempt to build something from nothing,” Shuprotim Bhaumik, a Stony Brook alumnus and partner at HR&A, said in an email. “We believe that Long Island’s biomedical cluster is among the most ripe industry clusters on Long Island upon which to build such a strategy.”

The report highlighted four key factors that have led to the decline of Long Island’s economy in recent decades: lack of employment options, stagnant population growth, decline in young families and high
housing costs.

For example, the annual employment growth rate has slumped from 2.4 percent between 1970 and 1980 to just 0.8 percent between 2000 and 2010. The proportion of workers aged 25–34 has declined 5.6 percent since 1990.

The study suggested that ramping up multi-family housing and building employment around biomedical clusters can save Long Island from its slide.

The report’s high projections for biomedical success would be extremely beneficial for the coming generations. A possible 75 percent increase in employment, totaling about 12,250 new jobs, could be on the horizon for Long Island by 2040. Combined with successful housing projects, $12.6 billion in income stands to be gained.

Dr. Lina Obeid, professor of medicine and dean for research at Stony Brook’s School of Medicine, is optimistic. “It’s the most exciting time to practice cutting edge medicine and science,” Obeid said.

Stony Brook University is a leader in neurovascular, cardiovascular, and cancer research, Obeid added. New technologies allow for more advanced and meticulous research in the medical profession. She explained that for every $250,000 invested through grants—primarily federal—two or three researchers are hired.

“There are always positions that are open,” she said.

Dr. Kenneth Kaushansky, dean of the School of Medicine and senior vice president of health sciences, said there is a great return-on-investment when funds go towards biomedical research.

“For every dollar invested in the School of Medicine, eight or ten come back to the economy,” Kaushansky said. “The job prospects are outstanding.”

Dagnia Zeidlickis is the vice president of communications for the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, which she said is celebrating its 125th anniversary of being a part of the Long Island economy. Founded at the end of the 19th century, CSHL began as a training center for those looking to teach marine biology. The lab is another key biomedical player in HR&A’s economic playbook.

“We have key research and education programs with places like Stony Brook, North Shore LIJ and Brookhaven,” she said.

Zeidlickis also mentioned a partnership with Broad Hollow Bioscience Park, a sort of business incubator located on the campus of Farmingdale State College.

“OSI Pharmaceuticals, a spinoff of CSHL, was located there until it was recently acquired after its research into a cancer drug called Tarceva,” she said.

Bhaumik noted that Long Island’s multi-jurisdictional makeup makes things economically difficult, but
not impossible.

“Each institution within Long Island’s biomedical ecosystem will need to self-assess how it can best support the cluster’s success,” Bhaumik said. “For Stony Brook, it could mean forging stronger connections between student and faculty groups on campus and the business community.”

Investment in downtowns by creating more urban environments would attract younger workers and additional tracks on the LIRR would improve regional connectivity, the report said. New and improved infrastructure on Long Island would accompany a surging
biomedical sector.

The upshot of the report is “to create jobs in industries in which the region maintains a competitive advantage.” Zeidlickis seems to think “competitive” may be an understatement.

“Long Island has been a magnet for the best and brightest scientists in the world who have made breakthrough discoveries,” Zeidlickis said. “The contributions it has made to the biomedical world have been huge.”