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Insight & Intelligence™: Nov 30, 2015

U.S. Hot Spots for Biotech Jobs

Ten Hubs Continue to Command the Most Employment Activity

U.S. Hot Spots for Biotech Jobs

The cornerstones of regional cluster success include strong research universities, anchor biopharmas, younger startups and networks that connect those budding businesses to expertise, and capital. [iStock/Marko_Skrbic]

    Biopharmas come and go, but the places to find jobs remain largely the same 10 regions highlighted by GEN last year and in 2013. The cornerstones of their success are hardly secrets: they include strong research universities, anchor biopharmas, younger startups, and networks that connect those budding businesses to expertise and, especially, capital.

    Below is this year’s GEN List of top 10 U.S. regions in which to secure a biotech job. While the list is unranked, GEN generated its list of the top 10 U.S. regions in which to secure a biotech job by identifying the areas most frequently cited in biotechnology and pharmaceutical job listings. Over the past month, GEN collected data by scrutinizing five employment websites—LinkedIn, Bio-Space, Medzilla, Indeed, and Monster. The websites also pinpointed a handful of up-and-coming regions that merit watching for future growth, including Dallas/Fort Worth, Denver, Houston, and Indianapolis. For the top regions listed, the numbers of jobs advertised has increased since GEN’s first “Hot Spots” list two years ago.

    Boston/Cambridge, MA

    The largest biopharma cluster on the East Coast grew even bigger over the past year following expansions by established companies and especially by up-and-coming firms. Baxalta, the biopharma spun out from Baxter International, expects 500 employees will ultimately work from an R&D site opened this past summer in Cambridge’s Kendall Square. Cambridge is also home to the company winning the most in private financing this year; Moderna Therapeutics racked up $450 million. More recently, Cambridge-based gene therapy startup Dimension Therapeutics signed a lease for new lab-office space in Woburn, while Domainex will more than double its space within Cambridge over the summer. Not all employers are growing: Biogen confirmed last month that it was shedding 400 Massachusetts jobs among 880 employees being axed. Keeping Boston/Cambridge and the rest of the state out front in biopharma is the mission of Travis McCready, who recently succeeded Susan Windham-Bannister, Ph.D., as CEO of the quasi-public Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, which oversees state support for the industry through the $1 billion Massachusetts Life Sciences Initiative.

    San Francisco Bay Area

    The brand-new 2016 California Life Sciences Industry Report, released November 12, featured the Bay Area in its all-too-familiar role as the leading region within the Golden State, accounting for 23% (63,907) of the industry’s 281,198 jobs statewide. San Francisco and vicinity constitute the nation’s oldest cluster, and the largest on the West Coast. Home-grown biopharmas continue to go public, with two companies launching IPOs (CytomX and MyoKardia) since late September when the market began to sour on biotech. The region can also boast of the most recent (at deadline) home-grown company to get bought by a pharma giant, as ZS Pharma of San Mateo, CA, earlier this month agreed to be acquired by AstraZeneca for $2.7 billion. Within the East Bay, Aduro Biotech—which raised $124.3 million net through an IPO on April 20—disclosed plans to more-than-double its workforce from 80 to 200 people by mid-2016, when it is set to move into a new building at Aquatic Park in Berkeley. But the biopharma news is not all good for the region: Amgen axed 300 employees at Onyx Pharmaceuticals, which it acquired for $10.4 billion in 2013. And KaloBios earlier this month shed 17 jobs—61% of its total workforce—following a series of clinical trial disappointments. 

    New York (including portions of New Jersey and Connecticut)

    The Big Apple region is increasingly the apple of biopharma’s eye. Perhaps the most significant developments came in March, when the New York City Economic Development Corporation launched two startup-stoking efforts: renovation of a Manhattan building into new wet lab space, and a $150 million public-private City of New York Early-Stage Life Sciences Funding Initiative, expected to create 2,000 direct jobs by 2020. Last month, Eli Lilly agreed to add 300,000 square feet and 50 jobs at its R&D site within the Alexandria Center for Science and Technology. The Center is also home to Pfizer and Roche—and Accelerator, which in September, closed on an oversubscribed $62.8 million financing round with new investors that included AbbVie and WuXi PharmaTec. Suburban Westchester County continues to see Regeneron Pharmaceuticals expand. On November 12 Gov. Andrew Cuomo joined company officials in opening two new buildings and announcing an additional $150 million expansion that will add at least 300 jobs. Across the Hudson River, New Jersey biotechs accounted for 23 of the 41 tech firms approved earlier this month to win funding through the state’s Technology Business Tax Certificate Transfer (NOL) Program, which lets startups raise cash by selling tax losses and/or R&D tax credits.

    San Diego

    The region has traditionally been one of the nation’s top biopharma clusters, so it’s not surprising to see more positive news in and around the “Plymouth of the West.” On November 9, home-grown venture capital firm Avalon Partners joined GlaxoSmithKline to announce that Iron Horse Therapeutics, a company that’s focused on identifying and development therapeutics for ALS, would receive $10 million in series A financing, plus R&D support from Avalon and GSK, and R&D and mentoring support through the partners’ COI Pharmaceuticals. GSK is raising from $40 million to $50 million its potential milestone payments to companies that develop marketed products. Late last month, Illumina broke ground on a 300,000 manufacturing facility that will expand its operations within San Diego, which is already home to its headquarters. Completion is expected late next year. Also in San Diego, Eli Lilly said it will add 130 jobs at its Lilly Biotechnology Center and expand the facility by 175,000 square feet. On the not-so-bright side, San Diego-based Arena Pharmaceuticals last month began cutting about 80 jobs—35% of its U.S. workforce—and refocusing its R&D strategy following disappointing sales for its only marketed drug, BelviqTM for weight loss.


    The home of the Declaration of Independence was host to the biopharma industry in June as the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) held its annual conference at an expanded Pennsylvania Convention Center. The meeting, which drew almost 16,000 attendees, took place less than three miles from University City Science Center, which the same month announced a partnership with developer Wexford Science+Technology to double the campus in size. Their $1 billion “uCity Square” project aims to promote more collaboration between companies and area research institutions, namely the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University. Off-campus, Adaptimmune (which is also headquartered in Oxford, U.K.) said on October 9 that it will locate its U.S. headquarters and clinical operations in a new facility that will create 110 jobs at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. The site will house a cGMP manufacturing facility designed to support clinical development and initial commercialization of the company’s cancer immunotherapies. One of the region’s longtime shortcomings has been the lack of a single tracker of the far flung biopharma industry. But late last month, 10 life-sci and other tech groups unveiled their “Life Sciences Ecosystem” map, designed as a one-stop database of companies, incubators, investors, research institutions, CROs, and consultants.

    Washington DC (includes portions of Maryland and Virginia)

    The desire of Maryland’s biopharma leaders for an injection of new activity was more than fulfilled this year with new vaccine-based activity. GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) said in April it would create one of its three Vaccine Development Centers in Rockville, MD, adding 600 jobs, in part by shifting positions from Philadelphia and Cambridge, MA. A month later, the Tech Council of Maryland held The Atlantic Vaccines and Immunotherapeutics Summit in Bethesda, hoping to build on job momentum stoked by companies large and small. AstraZeneca’s MedImmune plans to open a $200+ million expanded manufacturing center in 2017, adding 300 more jobs. On the smaller side, Emergent BioSolutions disclosed plans to add 158 jobs over the next four years through an expansion of its East Lombard Street manufacturing site in Baltimore, one of two company facilities in the city. In Virginia, Gov. Terry McAuliffe in July launched “GO Virginia,” an economic development program intended create jobs in biopharma and other industries through new incentives expected to be launched next year

    Los Angeles

    Long known for its largest biopharma Amgen, the Southland region anchored by the “City of Angels” is also home to several up-and-coming companies that made news this year: LA-based Kite Pharma launched an up-to-$1billion-plus collaboration with Amgen to develop and commercialize novel chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell immunotherapies. Kite also bought T-Cell Factory and began partnerships with bluebird bio and with Alpine Immune Sciences. Forty-five miles south in Irvine, however, Allergan, which was bought last year for $70 billion by Actavis which subsequently renamed itself Allergan, eliminated 577 jobs. Expanding biopharma is a priority for officials beyond the city limits. Earlier this month, Los Angeles County’s Board of Supervisors approved a $250,000 contract with the public-private Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation to implement a multi-stakeholder cluster strategy aimed at attracting life sciences employers and their jobs by identifying sites, promoting investment and job training, and drawing on existing institutions. The contract came nine months after the LA County region’s biopharma leaders worked to generate ideas for growing the industry at the “Los Angeles Biotech Summit,” hosted February 26 by the University of Southern California, which plans to build a biotech park adjacent to its Health Sciences Campus.


    Long known for Astellas and Takeda and other pharma anchors, the region has made moves over the past year to build a bench of startups. Biopharmas are among the 117 startups or “members” at the Matter incubator that formally opened in February, along with diagnostics developers, healthcare IT, and medical device concerns. Matter’s latest arrival at deadline, announced November 12, wasn’t a startup but the five-year-old Chicago Innovation Mentors, whose 200 mentors work with entrepreneurs to commercialize their technologies. Chicago is also home to the 560-acre Illinois Medical District, sporting some 30 emerging technology-based companies and more than 29,000 employees. Continuing the district’s growth is the task of the Illinois Medical District Commission, which in August named a new executive director, Suzet McKinney. Chicago’s cluster of pharma giants now includes the biopharma spinouts of homegrown stalwarts Abbott Laboratories and Baxter International, AbbVie, and Baxalta, respectively. 

    Raleigh-Durham, NC (includes Research Triangle Park, NC)

    Who says you can’t go home again? Not Icagen, which is consolidating research and moving its headquarters back to Durham from Cambridge, MA, following its acquisition from Pfizer in July by XRPro Sciences, which renamed itself Icagen. The company will grow to 20 people when the move is completed in December. GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) said in July it was hiring up to 140 people for its plant near Raleigh in Zebulon. Earlier this year, however, GSK laid off 180 in Durham, where 125 former GSK workers added by Parexel were laid off, according to state Department of Commerce filings. Also axed were 258 employees at Raleigh-based Salix Pharmaceuticals, just one day after the company’s acquisition by Valeant Pharmaceuticals International was completed on April 1. Also outside Raleigh, Novo Nordisk is doubling its workforce of 700 in Clayton, through a $1.85 billion expansion of the manufacturing facility slated for completion in 2020. As for Raleigh itself INC Research, a growing CRO, hired 120 workers during the second quarter. Raleigh city officials hope to promote more expansions as the City Council considers new standards to guide decisions on economic incentives—standards that would include biotech among industries to be afforded higher priority. 


    The region looked down for the count last year when Amgen said it was axing 660 employees by shutting down its R&D campus overlooking Elliott Bay, and a manufacturing site in the Seattle suburb of Bothell. This year the Seattle area saw some better news, a lot of it generated by Juno Therapeutics. The immunotherapy developer began planning a manufacturing site in Bothell set to employ 40 when it opens next year. Juno also launched collaborations with Celgene (for up to $1 billion), as well as Editas Medicine and MedImmune, bought Stage Cell Therapeutics and settled a legal wrangle with Novartis over ownership of CAR technology. Seattle Genetics recruited candidates for 100 new jobs this spring. And Adaptive Biotechnologies hired about 20 for a new therapeutics unit, with plans to add 30 more by next year, after winning $195 million in private financing in May. However, state lawmakers in June let lapse the R&D tax credit, and revoked funding for the Life Science Discovery Fund. But a new advisory council formed by Gov. Jay Inslee vows to develop strategies for growing the industry: “Washington can be the global leader in life science innovation and health delivery by 2025,” says Inslee’s lead life-science advisor Maura Little.

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