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Maine's bioscience industry added about 1,600 jobs during the pandemic

Poll Trust in Science
John Minchillo
AP file
A laboratory technician prepares COVID-19 patient samples for semi-automatic testing at Northwell Health Labs, March 11, 2020, in Lake Success, N.Y.

The pandemic has fueled a 42% increase in the number of lab technicians, medical device manufacturers, chemists, engineers and other life science jobs in Maine over the last five years.

A new report from the Bioscience Association of Maine shows the state added about 1,600 jobs between 2020 and 2021 alone. Maine's industry experienced faster job growth than in other New England states over the last five years.

Many companies in Maine were well-positioned to manufacture the tests and other devices needed to diagnose COVID-19, said Agnieszka Carpenter, the association's executive director.

She said the growth of the industry could slow down in the coming years, depending on the direction of the pandemic.

"But I think it's a really great opportunity for Maine to pivot a little bit and to use the momentum and the growth that the companies have experienced. Also, it's worth noting that the growth has not only been in the companies that are typically associated with the COVID response," she said.

IDEXX, for example, is the Maine's largest life science employer, and Carpenter said the company added more than 1,000 new jobs in the last two or three years.

"But I would not be surprised if there hadn't been a pandemic, we'd probably see something between 15 and 25%," she said. "That's my guesstimate."

The industry was growing in Maine well before the pandemic, Carpenter said. The association last reported back in 2019 that the job rate had grown by 14% over a five-year period.

The average bioscience salary in Maine is about $108,741, a 128% increase over the last two decades, according to the report. Maine life science professionals earn a median salary of about $31 an hour, compared to about $23 an hour for all other occupations in the state.