Biotechnology Production & Trade

This section discusses the current status and historical trends related to imports and exports in the biotechnology industry. It covers trends for the industry in North Carolina, the U.S. and top competing states and shows North Carolina’s footprint in relationship to the U.S. industry and other states. This analysis is based on our NAICS-based definition of the biotechnology industry using data compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau, Foreign Trade Division available on the USA Trade Online website. Links are provided to the underlying data in the form of interactive tables, charts and maps throughout this section.

Biotechnology exports and imports are represented by the following four-digit NAICS codes: Ag & Chemicals (3112 & 3253), Medical Devices & Equipment (3345 & 3391) and Drugs & Pharmaceuticals (3254). NAICS code 3251 was omitted from Ag & Chemicals because only one six-digit NAICS code in the industry group is biotech-related. Furthermore, three of the codes that are included (3112, 3345 and 3391) represent both biotech and non-biotech related products, however in each of these at least one-third of the codes are biotech-related.


In 2012, the overall export value of biotech-related products from NC was $3.4 billion; up from $2.1 billion in 2002. North Carolina’s exports are growing in absolute terms and NC is slowly improving its rank in terms of U.S. exporters, moving from the 16th to the 14th largest state between 2002 and 2012. Exports span all three biotech categories but are highest in drugs and pharmaceuticals ($2 billion in 2012; NC is the 6th largest exporting state). The largest destination markets for NC biotech-related exports are Canada ($923 million; 26.8% of total biotech-related exports) and Japan ($377 million; 8%); also the two largest markets for the United States as a whole. Despite this strong exporting presence, North Carolina is a net importer with imports totaling $6.8 billion in 2012. The drugs and pharmaceuticals is also the largest import category for North Carolina at $4.1 billion in 2012. The top three countries in terms of import sources for North Carolina account for 47% (Ireland, Singapore and Mexico).

North Carolina
Present (2012)
  • Exports: in 2012, the total value of North Carolina’s exports in biotechnology was over $3.4 billion (T6a).
    • Drugs and pharmaceuticals made up 59% of North Carolina’s exports. Agricultural feedstock and chemicals made up 12% and medical devices accounted for 29% of exports (C6a).
    • Canada accounted for 26.8% of the total value of North Carolina’s exports across the three segments. Japan (8.0%) and Germany (7.1%) were the second and third largest export destinations for biotechnology from North Carolina (T6a; M6a).
  • Imports: In 2012, the total value of North Carolina’s imports in biotechnology was $6.8 billion (T7a).
    • Drugs and pharmaceuticals made up 61% of North Carolina’s imports. Agricultural feedstock and chemicals made up 34% and medical devices accounted for 5.5% of imports (C7a).
    • o Ireland, Singapore and Mexico account for 46.9% of the total value of North Carolina’s biotech-related imports (T7a). Ireland accounts for 18.4% of total imports, Singapore at 16.8% and Mexico at 11.7%. The U.K. (8.3%) and Germany (8.0%) round out the top five countries for 2012 (T7a; M7a).
Historical Trends
  • Exports (2002-2012)
    • North Carolina’s exports grew steadily from 2002 to 2012, moving from $2.1 to $3.4 billion. The biotechnology industry did suffer a decline in exports in 2010 and 2011 due to the global recession but was regaining strength in 2012 (C6a).
    • Considerable change in export destinations for North Carolina has occurred since 2002. Canada (40.4%) was the leading export destination in 2002 however in 2012, Canada’s share dropped to only 26.8% despite an overall increase in exports. There has also been significant growth in exports over the last decade to Japan, China, Belgium, Ireland, Singapore and India (T6a; M7a).
  • Imports (2008-2012)
    • North Carolina’s imports declined slightly from 2008 to 2012, from $8.5 to $6.8 billion (T7a)(C6a).
    • Considerable change in import origins for North Carolina has occurred since 2008. The United Kingdom (38.8 %) and Singapore (15.9%) lead in the share of imports in 2008. Since then the market has shifted as nations such as Ireland, Mexico and Germany grew in importance. Singapore and he United Kingdom and are still important sources for imports as the second and fourth largest sources respectively (T6a; M7a).
United States
Present (2012)
  • Exports: In 2012, the total value of U.S. biotechnology exports was $156 billion (T6b).
    • Agricultural feed and chemicals makes up 15.7% of U.S. exports, while medical devices made up 51.6%. Drugs and pharmaceuticals accounted for 32.6% of U.S. exports (C6b).
    • The top six destinations of U.S. biotechnology exports were Canada (12.7%), Japan (8.8%), Mexico (6.7%), Germany (6%), the Netherlands (5.8%) and China (5.6%) (T6b; M6b).
    • The U.S. biotechnology trade balance with Ireland is particularly negative––$29.8 billion imports; $3.2 billion exports. The U.S. trade balance with Canada in biotechnology is positive – $23.8 billion imports and $27.8 billion exports.
  • Imports: In 2012, the total value of U.S biotechnology imports was $187.1 billion (T7b).
    • Drugs and pharmaceuticals made up 48% of U.S. imports, while medical devices made up 40%. Agricultural feed and chemicals accounted for 12% of imports to the United States (C7b).
    • As of 2012, the largest share of biotechnology goods imported into the U.S. was produced in Europe with Ireland in the number one position accounting for 14.5% of total imports. Together with Ireland, top European country sources are Germany (10.4%) and Switzerland (7.4%). Canada (8.6%) and Mexico (6.5%) round out the top five countries for 2012 (T7b; M7b).
Historical Trends
  • Exports (2002 v. 2012)
    • Growth in biotechnology exports grew rapidly in the last decade, from $67.9 billion in 2002 to $156 billion in 2012 (T6b).
    • Growth was seen in each of the three segments, with agricultural feed and chemicals growing 149%, while medical devices increased 108%. Drugs and pharmaceuticals grew the most, increasing by 164% (T6b; C6b).
  • Imports (2008 v. 2012)
    • Growth in biotechnology imports increased slightly since 2008, growing from $212 billion to $238 billion, a 12.2 % increase (T7b; C7b)
    • All three segments of biotechnology grew their imports from 2008 to 2012. The largest segment of growth in the U.S. imports was in medical devices, growing 25% from 2008 to 2012. The slowest growing segment was agricultural feed and chemicals growing 7.2%. Drugs and pharmaceuticals grew the most increasing exports by 11.2%. (T7b; C7b).
    • The import markets remained more or less stable with the top three markets remaining Ireland, Germany and Canada during the four year time period (T7b; M7b).
Top U.S. States
Present (2012)
  • The top five states in biotechnology exports were: California (14.6%), Puerto Rico (9.4%), Texas (7.1%), Indiana (6.4%) and Massachusetts (4.9%) (T6c; C6c).
    • In drugs and pharmaceuticals, Puerto Rico (25.6%), Indiana (14.1%), California (11.9%), Pennsylvania (4.9%), New York (4.1%) and North Carolina (4.0%) were the top six exporting states (T6c).
  • The top states in biotechnology imports were: California (10.3%), New Jersey (7.7%), Illinois (7.3%), Pennsylvania (7.2%) and Indiana (6.9%) (T7c; C7c).
    • In drugs and pharmaceuticals, Puerto Rico (12.3%), Pennsylvania (12.1%), Indiana (10.6%), New Jersey (10.2%) and Tennessee (7.6%) were the top five importers (T6c; C6c).
Historical Trends
  • Exports (2002-2012)
    • California, Puerto Rico, Texas and Massachusetts have been in the list of top five exporters throughout the 2002 – 2012 decade and Florida, Illinois and Indiana have vied for the fifth position (C6c).
  • Imports (2008-2012)
    • California, New Jersey, Illinois and Pennsylvania have been in the top five U.S. importers since 2008. Indiana has saw significant growth during the last four years, going from $6.6 billion to $13.0 billion between 2008 and 2012 and replacing Puerto Rico for the number five position (C7c; T7c).
NC in the U.S. Economy
  • North Carolina was the 14th largest U.S. exporter of biotech-related products in 2012 with an export value of $3.4 billion. In North Carolina’s main category, drugs and pharmaceuticals, NC is the 6th largest U.S. exporter behind Puerto Rico, Indiana, California and Pennsylvania.
  • North Carolina accounts for nearly 5% of all U.S. exports to Canada, the largest export destination for both North Carolina and the United States.
  • NC was the 16th largest exporter in 2002 overall and the 11th most significant exporter in terms of value in drugs and pharmaceuticals (T6c).
  • North Carolina’s overall biotech-related exports grew slower (62%) than the U.S. average (130%) between 2002 and 2012. However in drugs and pharmaceuticals, NC’s exports grew much faster than the U.S. average (400% compared to 164%), albeit from a much lower 2002 value ($0.4 billion vs. $19.3 billion).