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As a direct result of the Medical University of South Carolina's presence and continued growth in the Lowcountry, the biotech industry is an emerging cluster for Dorchester County and the Charleston Region. As the area's strongest asset for the bioscience sector, MUSC is the region's largest biomedical employer with over 11,000 employees. In addition to MUSC's world-class research, the area also boasts close proximity to a wide variety of research institutions in the academic, federal, and industry sector, as well as an abundance of R&D assets. There are also many bioscience and technology companies already succeeding in the region that are involved in everything from research and development to manufacturing. Key focus areas for this cluster include the following:

  • Bioengineering
  • Clinical Trials and Drug/Vaccine Research
  • Health IT and Telemedicine
  • Medical Devices and Diagnostics
  • Medical Equipment (Hospital and Laboratory)
  • Pharmaceutical Manufacturing

Industry Spotlight: ArborGen

With a footing in the Lowcountry since 2000, and a move to Dorchester County in 2010, ArborGen is the largest global producer of tree seedlings in the world. Utilizing the best science combined with an unmatched knowledge of forestry, ArborGen strives to produce purpose-grown trees to maximize resources and conserve the world's native forests. ArborGen's workforce consists of foresters, scientists, biologists, conservationists, tree farmers, and researchers that work together to grow 300 million seedlings globally each year. With the company's corporate headquarters located right here in Dorchester County, international locations include Australia, Brazil, and New Zealand. With a $14.3 million investment to build ArborGen's global headquarters, the biotech company's state-of-the-art facility is complete with laboratories, production and administrative areas, and a 35,000-square-foot greenhouse.

Attractive Assets

  • Proximity to the Medical University of South Carolina
  • A growing, young, and diverse population
  • Access to research universities and other higher educational institutions with bioscience programs
  • A quality education and training system to prepare an exceptional workforce for the biotech industry
  • A strong infrastructure for contract biopharmaceutical manufacturing
  • Low electricity and utility costs, and an abundant water supply
  • South Carolina's statewide emphasis on biosciences
  • High quality of life in the Charleston Region
  • Existing medical device, pharma, biotech, and related cluster companies in the Charleston Region

Research & Innovation

Through a combined effort among the state's three research universities – Clemson University, MUSC, and the University of South Carolina (USC) – the South Carolina SmartState Program was developed to bring statewide resources together to collaborate on various research projects. The biomedical focus areas include the following:

Advanced Tissue Biofabrication

Lipidomics, Pathobiology, and Therapy

Brain Imaging

Marine Genomics

Cancer Disparities

Medication Safety and Efficacy

Cancer Drug Discovery

Molecular Proteomics in Cardiovascular Disease and Prevention

Cancer Stem Cell Biology and Therapy


Childhood Neurotherapeutics


Clinical Effectiveness and Patient Safety

Regenerative Medicine

Gastrointestinal Cancer Diagnostics

Renal Disease Biomarkers

Health Facilities Design and Testing


Healthcare Quality

Tobacco-Related Malignancy Research

Healthful Lifestyles

Translational Cancer Therapeutics

Inflammation and Fibrosis Research

Vision Science

The area is strengthened by MUSC's research that includes the following

Industry Incentives

The state of South Carolina has selected biosciences as a key focus area, and has created new incentives to promote its growth. More information on these statewide incentives is listed below:

  • The South Carolina Life Sciences Act is an incentive program to offset expenses associated with a new or expanded life sciences facility investing a minimum of $100 million in the project.
  • SCBIO is a member organization that supports and advances South Carolina's life science industry through collaboration, advocacy, workforce development, and support for business operations.

Unique Resources

Pine Hill Business Campus

  • A 380+ Class-A industrial park included in East Edisto, a MeadWestvaco master plan
  • Ideally suited for research and development facilities
  • Includes a 500,000-gallon water tank to accommodate current and future tenants
  • Home to ArborGen's global headquarters
  • Future activity and innovation hub located in an emerging area of Dorchester County

The Charleston Region also has the following available resource opportunities and commercialization support:


SCRA, a non-profit contract R&D organization, has formed partnerships with the state's three research universities to establish a network of Innovation Centers and Launch Zones to assist start-up and existing businesses with commercializing new technologies. Many qualifying companies are eligible for equity financing of up to $200,000. 

SCRA/MUSC Innovation Center

SCRA/MUSC Innovation Center is a state-of-the-art research facility and business incubator with lab spaces designed to support medical and bioscience research and serves as home for eight biopharmaceutical and biotechnology companies.

SC Launch

SC Launch, an SCRA collaboration, offers qualifying companies commercialization support, guidance and seed funding, and was recognized by Forbes Magazine as one of the 2010 Top Five Entrepreneurial Support Programs in the U.S.

Training Opportunities & Education

Dorchester County offers bioscience companies a growing and skilled workforce. Local higher education institutions offer degrees in related occupations, such as biochemistry, microbiology, chemistry, and computer engineering. In fact, the College of Charleston offers a new interdisciplinary program in discovery informatics – the first undergraduate program of its kind in the country.

Fast Facts

  • The Charleston Region is one of six emerging medium-sized U.S. regions for the medical device industry.
  • In 2011, MUSC conducted $243,000,000 in annual research.
  • Over the next five years, the industry is expected to experience strong growth with average annual revenue growth rates of 9.6%.
  • In September 2011, The Wall Street Journal named the Charleston Region as the #1 U.S. Metro for Growth in College Degrees over the past 10 years.

Who's Already Doing Business Here