Alex Philippidis Senior News Editor Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News

Employment Picture Remains the Brightest in Ten Regions

The biopharma world can be rather unstable, what with blockbuster mergers and companies that fizzle out after generating great publicity, if not great promise. Yet the industry shows remarkable stability when it comes to where its jobs are being created—largely in the same hot spots that GEN has highlighted since the first “Hot Spots” list was published in 2013.

These 10 are among 16 top-tier life sciences clusters recently spotlighted by commercial real estate firm JLL in its 2016 Life Sciences Outlook report, released over the summer. Employment was the single largest factor, accounting for 40% of the weight of a region’s ranking—consisting of 20% employment concentration, 10% employment growth, and 10% establishment concentration.

“Especially in larger clusters, there’s a lot of venture funding available, but one of the primary drivers of establishment growth, and overall growth, is the talent pipeline,” Roger Humphrey, executive managing director and leader of JLL’s Life Sciences group, told GEN.

Academic institutions are key sources of talent for that pipeline, which Humphrey said is increasingly influencing decisions on where companies locate, in terms of both site selection and infrastructure amenities.

Following 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 identified the areas most frequently cited in biotechnology and pharmaceutical job listings, scrutinizing five employment websites—LinkedIn, Bio-Space, Medzilla, Indeed, and Monster—as well as regulatory filings, public announcements, and news reports.

Two regions (Denver and Houston) showed enough strength to be just outside the top 10, among up-and-coming regions whose continued growth could merit their inclusion on future GEN job hotspot lists, as were Indianapolis and Jupiter, FL, the latter a region spotlighted by GEN earlier this year. For the top regions listed, the numbers of jobs advertised has increased since last year’s list.

Boston/Cambridge, MA

Number of jobs: 86,235 (JLL); 63,026 (Massachusetts Biotechnology Council or MassBio)

Six months after Boston/Cambridge topped GEN’s List of Top 10 U.S. Biopharma Clusters, the region finished number one in commercial real estate firm JLL’s annual Life Sciences Outlook Report, in no small measure based on job activity. A parade of biopharmas this year brought a steady stream of good expansion and relocation news to the region and the rest of Massachusetts—starting with GE’s headquarters move from Fairfield, CT, to Boston’s Fort Point. GE cleared its most recent regulatory hurdle October 5, when the Boston Civic Design Commission approved the look of the new HQ, where about 800 employees are expected to be based.

Since Labor Day, Verily (formerly Google) Life Sciences disclosed plans to base its new $500 million “Onduo” diabetes joint venture with Sanofi in Cambridge, while Cambridge-based Moderna Therapeutics announced plans for a GMP messenger RNA (mRNA) clinical manufacturing facility in Norwood, MA, that will employ 200. The state selected the nonprofit Worcester Business Development Corp. to transform the former Worcester State Hospital campus into a biomanufacturing facility with up to 500 jobs. The Bay State’s biopharma workforce grew 4.2% last year, to a total 63,026 jobs, according to the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council (MassBio). Not all regional biopharma employment news is good: Cambridge-based Merrimack Pharmaceuticals said October 3 it is cutting its workforce 22% while a few days earlier, Waltham, MA-based ImmunoGen began eliminating 65 jobs, 17% of its workforce.


Number of jobs: 53,054 (JLL)

The past year has seen several upbeat announcements by growing biopharmas. Horizon Pharma in February opened its U.S. headquarters in Lake Forest, IL, with 300 employees—up 100 from a year earlier—and plans to grow its stateside workforce to 530. Vetter in July disclosed plans to hire up to 500 employees for a $320 million, 1.1 million-square-foot facility that the contract development and manufacturing organization plans to build in Des Plaines, IL. The facility would be the second U.S. manufacturing site for the company; its first is a 70-person plant in another Chicago suburb, Skokie, IL.

Next year, Valent BioSciences, a subsidiary of Tokyo-based Sumitomo Chemical Co., plans to open a $22 million primary research facility, or “Global Innovation Center,” at Innovation Park: Lake County in Libertyville, IL. The site will start with 40 employees shifted from the company’s current research site in Long Grove, IL, and is expected to grow over time. Also in 2017, Fresenius Kabi plans to break ground next year on an approximately $250 million, 10-year expansion of its Melrose Park, IL, manufacturing site, which makes generic, sterile injectable pharmaceuticals. Among new biopharma resources in the region is the Patient Center opened in February by Illinois Biotechnology Industry Organization (iBIO®) and the iBIO Institute, with the goal of advancing clinical development by connecting patient groups, drug developers, and clinical research institutions.

Los Angeles (includes Orange County, CA)

Number of jobs: 120,688 (JLL); 99,049 (California Life Sciences Association)

The Southland region anchored by the “City of Angels” has grown in biopharma beyond giants like Amgen and Allergan. Up-and-coming, LA-based Kite Pharma in June opened a commercial manufacturing facility in El Segundo, CA, next to Los Angeles International Airport, that will produce chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapies and T-cell receptor product candidates for clinical trials and enable commercialization of lead product candidate KTE-C19. But Baxalta—now a Shire subsidiary—in March began idling 239 employees from Los Angeles as well as Thousand Oaks, CA, and Van Nuys, CA.

The region’s biopharma leaders have projected the industry could generate 4000 permanent jobs if they can establish the East Los Angeles research hub that the University of Southern California and other biopharma anchors have discussed publicly for 4 years, in collaboration with California Institute of Technology (CalTech) and the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Also interested in biopharma is Los Angeles County, whose Board of Supervisors on October 4 approved $3 million to match a private funding commitment toward an incubator being created by the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute (LA BioMed) with the California Life Sciences Association (CLSA) on the campus of County Harbor–UCLA Medical Center. CLSA last month opened its first office in the region, in the Monrovia, CA, incubator of Lab Launch, after San Diego-based Biocom expanded into Los Angeles by opening its own regional office over the summer. Three industry groups now operate in the region, including the Southern California Biomedical Council (SoCalBio) founded in 1995. 

New York (includes portions of New Jersey)

Number of jobs: 127,308 (JLL; combination of four regions: New Jersey, New York City, Long Island, and Westchester County)

Most of the New York region’s jobs (61% or 77,326) are in New Jersey, where cancer immunotherapy developer Advaxis on September 9 formally opened a manufacturing facility in an expansion of its Princeton, NJ, site. In New York City, the Alexandria Center for Life Science plans to open an R&D site for 25–40 startups next year with $25 million in seed funding from Alexandria Venture Investments. The change of the New York City mayorship from Michael Bloomberg has some biopharma leaders questioning the city government’s commitment to the industry, the Financial Times reported in May. But under Bloomberg’s successor, Bill de Blasio, the public–private New York City Economic Development Corp. last year expanded to $150 million, and formally launched, the City of New York Early-Stage Life Sciences Funding Initiative—conceived in the Bloomberg era—with capital from NYCEDC, Celgene, GE Ventures, and Eli Lilly.

In New York’s Westchester County, biopharma is dominated by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, which last month announced plans for yet another expansion. The company plans to build an additional 1 million square feet of R&D space on a 100-acre site bought by the company and adjacent to its Tarrytown, NY, headquarters. On Long Island, Fougera Pharmaceuticals, part of Novartis’ Sandoz unit, said in March it would break ground by year’s end on an $88 million expansion of its Melville, NY, facility that will consolidate operations now split between there and Hicksville, NY, as well as retain the company’s nearly 400 existing jobs and allow for additional jobs following completion, set for 2020.


Number of jobs: 53,614 (JLL)

The region anchored by the “City of Brotherly Love” is seeing expansion by WuXi AppTec. On October 6, the company opened a 150,000-square-foot biomanufacturing center, the company’s third facility within the Philadelphia Navy Yard, where 200 manufacturing and support staff will be based once fully configured. Later this month, one of the region’s research anchors, The University of Pennsylvania, is set to formally open its Pennovation Center startup space within its Pennovation Works campus. The 58,000-square-foot site has four biopharmas occupying its customizable lab spaces, starting with Liquid Biotech USA, and has found startups to occupy 80% of its space.

The region’s (and nation’s) oldest urban research park, the University City Science Center, won $50,000 from the U.S. Small Business Administration last month for its Phase 1 Ventures commercialization program, a partnership with Wexford Science + Technology. The Science Center’s current and past incubator residents account directly and indirectly for a combined 40,000 jobs in Greater Philadelphia, according to a report released in June by the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia and Econsult Solutions. 

AstraZeneca is keeping 134 sales and support jobs in the region, but shifting them from Fort Washington, PA, to its North America headquarters in Wilmington, DE. However, Merck & Co. is cutting 148 sales and administrative support jobs in North Wales, PA, after ending U.S. promotion of the cardiovascular drug Zontivity (vorapaxar), on top of up to 360 R&D jobs being eliminated by the pharma giant in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

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

Number of jobs: 35,073 (JLL)

Bayer’s planned $66 billion acquisition of Monsanto has sparked concerns that the combined company may cut jobs in the region, where Bayer is a major employer. The companies aren’t discussing specifics of job cuts while the deal waits regulatory approval—though Bayer has said it will retain an “important presence” in Durham, NC, where Bayer now bases 640 employees at the headquarters for the Crop Science division of its North American operations. Durham and the rest of North Carolina are growing biopharma jobs at three times the national average, according to JLL.

Among employers expanding is Novo Nordisk, which in March started construction on a $1.8 billion diabetes drug production site in Clayton, NC, that is expected to employ 700 when fully operational in 2020. That same month, Braeburn Pharmaceutical announced plans to create 52 jobs by building a $20 million manufacturing/R&D hub at Keystone Technology Park in Morrisville, NC, near Research Triangle Park (RTP). On September 20, Almac Group announced plans to bring 102 more jobs to Durham in an expansion that would expand its Bull City workforce by more than one-third from its current 288 staffers. Also last month, Inivata, a British developer of clinical applications for liquid biopsy and circulating tumor DNA analysis, expanded into the U.S. by opening an office at Research Triangle Park.

However, BASF earlier this year began cutting about 100 of its 1000 jobs at RTP, where the company bases its North American Crop Protection business and global headquarters for BASF Plant Science—part of a global 350-job reduction.

San Diego

Number of jobs: 64,690 (JLL)

The “Plymouth of the West” will host next year’s Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) International Convention. At that event, the region’s biopharma leaders can be expected to show progress toward achieving the 2020 Strategic Plan unveiled earlier this year by life-sci industry group Biocom. The Plan’s goals include accelerating job growth in the San Diego region and the rest of Southern California.

Indeed some biopharma giants are growing. Illumina in April inked its third expansion lease within 15 months, agreeing to lease the 316,000-square-foot i3 campus in University Towne Centre, developed by BioMed Realty Trust and set to be completed next year. Illumina’s HQ grew in June when it moved into Building 6, developed by Alexandria Real Estate Equities. By year’s end, Alexandria plans to complete another San Diego building for Eli Lilly, which is expanding its Biotechnology Center. Vertex Pharmaceuticals next year is set to more than double the space of its La Jolla, CA, research site, from 80,000 to 170,000 square feet—and more than double its regional workforce with an eventual 250 employees.

On a smaller scale, Xencor, based in Monrovia, CA, said last month it will add four staffers to its 17-person San Diego office. And San Diego County saw 330 new life sciences jobs among the 1650 created by tech-focused “innovation startups” last year, the nonprofit regional tech entrepreneurship group Connect said last month.

San Francisco Bay Area

Number of jobs: 67,738 (JLL)

The West Coast’s largest biopharma cluster received three recent votes of confidence from big pharma. Novartis on October 5 said it will move its Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases to Emeryville, CA, from Singapore. Merck & Co. began recruiting 100 researchers for interim labs set to open next year in South San Francisco, where AstraZeneca has opted to consolidate 350 regional R&D jobs next year at a single 163,000-square-foot site now under construction at HCP’s The Cove at Oyster Point.

The “Birthplace of Biotechnology” is also home to The Landing at Oyster Point, which will be transformed into 2.25 million square feet of life sciences R&D space under plans by a joint venture led by a U.S. entity of the Shanghai-based Greenland Holding Group, which bought the 42-acre property in August for $171 million.

Beyond big pharma and big campuses, South San Francisco welcomed Verily (formerly Google) Life Sciences, which announced plans to base an initial 400 staffers relocating from Mountain View, CA, in three buildings at the former Onyx Pharmaceuticals site being subleased to the company by Amgen, which bought Onyx in 2013. Verily said it will eventually expand to a fourth building and add 600 more jobs—though in August, the city’s Planning Commission was told that construction was being postponed until 2018. Job growth also stems from early-stage companies. A June report by the California Life Sciences Institute found that 137 Bay Area life sciences startups provided jobs for more than 1200 people in full-time, part-time, and consultant positions. 


Number of jobs: 24,320 (JLL)

The CEO for one of Seattle’s best-known biotechs, Juno Therapeutics, delivered an unflattering picture of the region’s biopharma industry earlier this month at the GeekWire Summit 2016: “We’re going backwards,” declared Hans Bishop, according to GeekWire, before adding: “We’ve got a lot to do, but I think the work is starting and I believe there is real intent, and I hope we can get ourselves back on track.”

The region’s biopharma leaders vowed to get their industry back on track 2 years ago after Amgen pulled out and a beneficial R&D tax credit expired. They have met with some success: Seattle Genetics told the Puget Sound Business Journal earlier this month it plans to continue adding about 100 new staffers each year, and is now expanding its Bothell, WA, headquarters by 100,000 square feet. Juno remains expansion minded, exercising an option to lease an additional 183,623 square feet at Alexandria Real Estate Equities’ Alexandria Center lab/office building, giving it all 287,000 square feet in the only life sciences space under construction in Seattle’s Lake Union section.

In March, BioMed Realty Trust formally opened a 122,700-square-foot addition to the Vue Research Center, whose tenants include NanoString Technologies, Novo Nordisk, Presage Biosciences, and Blaze Biosciences. Over the summer, BioMed completed a new 43,000-square-foot startup space, The Labs @201 Elliott, at The Omeros Building.

Washington, DC (includes portions of Maryland and Virginia)

Number of jobs: 39,145 (JLL)

Two sizeable expansions were announced in the region this year. Novavax in June said it will triple its workforce, adding 850 jobs at its headquarters in Gaithersburg, MD, as well as in Rockville, MD, where the company leased additional space for manufacturing and offices. Also last summer, Wellstat plans to grow into 115,000 square feet it agreed to sublease at GlaxoSmithKline’s Global Vaccines R&D Center.

Despite a sizeable job base, biopharma leaders say the region can do more to grow their industry. One solution may have emerged in June, when Maryland’s Department of Commerce said it was joining with Johns Hopkins University, University of Maryland, Baltimore, and University of Maryland, College Park, to create new “centers of excellence” to support commercialization of research in cell, gene, and regenerative therapies. One center will be created in Baltimore and the other somewhere in suburban Washington, DC. The need to nurture startups spun out of universities was a challenge identified at the 2016 Regional BioTech Forum, held in April at the Gaithersburg headquarters of home-grown MedImmune, the biologics arm of AstraZeneca.

In Virginia, Gov. Terry McAuliffe and state lawmakers agreed to spend $2.2 billion toward academic research with the goal of growing biopharma, with the governor declaring in August: “I want Virginia to be known as the brain state.” Virginia and Maryland biopharma leaders this year restated their ambitious goal of growing the region’s base of jobs and employers to “top 3 by 2023.”

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