Clemson life science programs double in size.

Before leaving his post at Louisiana Economic Development, South Carolina native James Chappell was a skeptic.

"Every state thinks they are going to succeed in life sciences," Chappell said, unsure whether the Palmetto State has what it takes. "I started kind of doing my research, and I was blown away with all the things that have happened in South Carolina since I left, specifically in the life sciences industry. I was even more blown away by the last few days here and meeting a lot of people on this stage and the companies that have had unbelievable success, some in just a couple of years. I knew I made the right decision."

The new SCBIO chief gestured to other life science leaders from around the state on the stage with him Thursday at the S.C. Manufacturing Conference and Expo: Rymedi's David Stefanich, Clemson University's Cynthia Young and Diversified Medical Healthcare's Austin Shirley.

"Do you remember when BMW came to South Carolina? Do you remember before Boeing?" Chappell asked. "That's what's happening now, but it's in the life sciences. Let's look at that trend. If we keep doing the job that we should be doing, we can look back in 10 or 20 years, and the way people think about those manufacturers, they'll think about the life sciences."

South Carolina's growing workforce appears to be one of the most promising catalysts of life science development in the state, he said. Especially since human capital is often the weakest link in the life science supply chain and, on a national level, it's only getting worse, according to Young, dean of Clemson's college of science.

"There's a national huge enrollment cliff coming in 2026. South Carolina is going to weather that storm beautifully," she said. "So we want to keep these students here because everyone else is going to be poaching these students."

Clemson University has mitigated the brain drain and provided additional learning opportunities for students to keep apace of industry trends outside of the academic sphere by tuning into the apprenticeship and training needs of life science partners through economic development groups like SCBIO, she said.

The school has also put a stake in the ground for investment in the field.

"One of the things we have been talking about is how do we get relevant experience here, because we know if students work here or intern here, they'll stay here," Young said.

She also invited companies to directly voice workforce needs to schools like Clemson.


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