Below is this year’s GEN List of top 10 U.S. regions in which to secure a biotech job. To generate its list of the top 10 U.S. regions in which to secure a biotech job, GEN identified the regions 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.
While the regions listed are not ranked, all 10 regions listed below were accounted for on the biotech or combined biotech/pharmaceutical search categories on four of the five job websites. Houston, TX made the top 10 of LinkedIn’s pharmaceutical search and Monster’s biotech/pharma search, while Princeton, NJ, made Medzilla’s top 10 in pharmaceutical job listings. Both regions merit watching in future years for possible further job listing growth.
As with last year’s GEN List, this year’s rankings showed a stratification of regions, with the top three separating themselves from the remaining seven. The rest of the top 10 includes many regions long familiar to observers of U.S. biopharma development, as well as a handful of up-and-coming regions that have benefited from factors such as the growth of biotech businesses into regional industry anchors and the hosting of recent Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) annual conventions.
The East Coast’s longtime biggest biopharma cluster has enjoyed a parade of biopharma expansions. Over the past year, job growth has been driven by big pharma consolidation of R&D operations (Novartis shifted activity from other sites to Cambridge, where Pfizer opened a new R&D center in June); biotech expansion (Biogen Idec and Vertex Pharmaceuticals have completed new headquarters sites); and industry outsourcing (the contract research organization PAREXEL International and Biogen Idec showed the largest one-year growth of major employers on the latest annual Industry Snapshot report released in August by the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council (MassBio). Since then, GE Healthcare and Baxter have announced expansion plans in the region, whose numerous advantages remain its critical mass of universities, research institutions, and companies; and state support through the $1 billion Massachusetts Life Sciences Initiative, enacted in 2008 before the financial crisis and overseen by the quasi-public Massachusetts Life Sciences Center.
San Francisco Bay Area
The nation’s largest biocluster has benefited from the revival of the initial public offerings market, with no fewer than four biopharma IPOs based in the Bay Area going public this month alone (Atara Biotherapeutics, Calithera Biosciences, Dermira, Virobay). Also this month, SOS Ventures made San Francisco the U.S. outpost for IndieBio, a pair of biotech accelerators set to launch in May. The past year has already seen Y Combinator in suburban Mountain View, CA, expand its startup-acceleration program to biotechs, and Janssen Labs start building a 30,000-square-foot South San Francisco site. Perhaps the region’s most exciting industry news has Mountain View-based Google emerging as a significant presence in biotech through its funding of Calico, led by Arthur D. Levinson, Ph.D., the former Genentech chairman and CEO (and still chairman of Apple). In September, Calico entered an up-to-$1.5 billion research collaboration with AbbVie that will create a new R&D site, as well as discover, develop, and bring to market new therapies for patients with neurodegeneration and cancer, plus other age-related diseases.
New York (including portions of New Jersey and Connecticut)
Only lately has New York created a greater biopharma whole out of the sum of its parts, including longstanding access to capital and top-flight research hospitals. The long-fractious community of nonprofit teaching hospitals and research institutions has united behind several game-changing initiatives, including the New York Genome Center and Alexandria Center for Life Science on Manhattan’s East Side. The latter was selected in July by Accelerator Corp. as its New York-area location—the biotechnology investment and management company that has nurtured Seattle biotech startups for more than a decade. Accelerator aims to nurture startups spinning out of New York institutions, using a $51 million fund whose co-investors include Eli Lilly, Pfizer Venture Investments, and Johnson & Johnson’s venture capital subsidiary Johnson & Johnson Development Corp. (JJDC). Within New York’s suburbs, Bayer last year consolidated East Coast operations from three other New Jersey sites and Tarrytown, NY, to Whippany, NJ—though Tarrytown has enjoyed continued growth by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, which broke ground late last year on a $100 million expansion of its headquarters expected to add 400 new jobs in two new buildings.
The birthplace of American Liberty spawned one of the year’s biggest financing deals late last month when Adaptimmune closed on $104 million of Series A financing to advance its cancer-fighting programs. In July Adaptimmune scored another big deal, namely a $350 million-plus collaboration with GlaxoSmithKline to develop and commercialize its affinity-enhanced T-cell receptor engineering technology. Philadelphia is also the birthplace of the nation’s first urban research park, University City Science Center, which last month officially opened its $115 million, 334,000 square-foot 3737 Market St. building, completed under a joint venture with Wexford Science+Technology. Tenants there include Penn Medicine, the operator of the Penn Institute for Rehabilitation Medicine, and Spark Therapeutics, a spinout of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia that raised some big money of its own in May, completing $72.8 million in Series B financing. The money will advance Spark’s pipeline, including its lead Phase III program, which addresses a specific form of inherited retinal dystrophy caused by mutations in the RPE65 gene.
Washington, DC (including portions of Maryland and Virginia)
The home region for the NIH and FDA has risen and fallen with both agencies. Over the past year, there’s been more falling than rising after a decade of yo-yo budgeting, capped by last year’s across-the-board budget cuts or “sequestration.” Congress has yet to agree on a budget for the current 2015 fiscal year, which began October 1, and won’t do so until at least December 11, when the current continuing resolution expires. Aside from the budget, the region faces another challenge: Nurturing another homegrown company into a mature successor to MedImmune (acquired 2007 by AstraZeneca) and Human Genome Sciences (HGS; acquired 2012 by GlaxoSmithKline)—though both maintain operations in Maryland. The region’s biocluster has won support from state officials; Maryland expanded its biotechnology tax credit to $12 million this year from $10 million toward angel investment for spinoffs or startups, resulting in more than 100 registrations submitted by investors the first day alone. In Virginia, Gov. Terry McAuliffe included biotech among tech industries promoted during this month’s TechTober series of events, including the launch of a “Mentors for Momentum” student mentoring program.
Chicagoland has long had stable pharma anchors—both the U.S. hubs of Japanese companies Astellas and Takeda, as well as homegrown Abbott Laboratories and Baxter International. AbbVie, the branded biopharma spun out of Abbott last year, terminated its £32 billion ($51 billion) acquisition of Shire on October 20, following increased opposition from Washington to such tax-slicing “inversion” mergers. Baxter is getting ready to spin out its branded drug business into Baxalta, which will base its R&D hub in Cambridge, MA. As AbbVie did last year, Baxter insists it and Baxalta will maintain substantial regional operations. That remains to be seen for Chicago-based biotech Durata Therapeutics following its $675 million-plus acquisition by Actavis, in a deal giving the buyer the already-marketed infectious disease antibiotic Dalvance (dalbavancin). Chicago and the state of Illinois hope to nurture a new generation of biotechs through the incubator Matter, which is also focused on healthcare IT and medical devices. Matter, which won $3.5 million from the state in January, is set to open early next year.
Raleigh-Durham, NC (includes Research Triangle Park, NC)
A pair of manufacturing facilities has generated much of the region’s recent biopharma news. Earlier this month Duke University spinout Argos Therapeutics said it will build a new plant in Durham, NC, within Research Triangle Park, to produce cancer and infectious-disease immunotherapies—starting with lead product AGS-003, now in a Phase III trial for metastatic renal cell carcinoma. Argos has won $9.5 million in incentives from the state of North Carolina, Durham County, the city of Durham, and the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, the state-funded nonprofit that advances the state’s life-sci industry. In return, the company promised to create 236 new jobs and retain 100 current jobs. Last month, Novartis officially dedicated a $1 billion vaccine plant in Holly Springs, NC, which will produce pandemic and seasonal influenza vaccines, including Flucelvax, using cell culture technology—the first facility of its kind in the U.S. Novartis began seeking a buyer for its flu vaccine business earlier this year, so the plant is expected to eventually change hands.
The days of Los Angeles-area biotech growing alongside Amgen are gone, as the company has been cutting back jobs in recent years. In July, Amgen said its headquarters in suburban Thousand Oaks, CA, would not be spared from plans to eliminate between 2,400 and 2,900 jobs companywide—12% to 15% of its total workforce—though the company has not specified how many positions there would be jettisoned. Also gone are the days of regional officials ignoring its biotech sector: Earlier this year, Battelle unveiled a “Master Plan” for growing Los Angeles County’s bioindustry that called in part for a new “Fund of Funds” to invest in startups and attract VC firms, and partnerships with developers to create three to five “biosciences hubs” where new lab space could emerge. LA enjoys a strong core of university-based and independent research institutions, as well as promising biotechs such as Puma Biotechnology, which on September 29 reported positive Phase II results for sole candidate PB272 (neratinib) for non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) with HER2 mutations.
San Diego officials hoped to signal their support for home-based biotech-focused businesses August 7, when the City Council approved a 10-year, up-to-$1.5 million tax rebate for Illumina. The sequencing giant won the rebate in return for committing to base 300 new manufacturing jobs in San Diego, at a facility set to open in 2016. Illumina employs more than 1,000 people in San Diego, and pays more than $1.3 million in city sales and use taxes annually. Yet it was a startup that arguably generated the region’s biggest biopharma news of 2014 a few weeks ago: Mapp Pharma in Sorrento Mesa supplied the experimental vaccine ZMapp that successfully treated two U.S. missionaries who contracted Ebola this summer. The region continues to see successful homegrown biopharmas get acquired by pharma giants—most recently on September 29, when Daiichi Sankyo said it would buy Ambit Biosciences for $410 million. In recent years such acquisitions have led to local job cuts; last year Bristol-Myers Squibb eliminated all 400 San Diego jobs it inherited when it acquired Amylin Pharmaceuticals in a complex $7 billion, three-company deal.
The region’s biopharma industry was set back in July, when Amgen disclosed it would shut down its R&D campus overlooking Elliott Bay, and a manufacturing site in the Seattle suburb of Bothell, WA, idling all 660 employees based between the sites. The setback revived off-and-on chatter that Seattle needs Washington state to carry out the same sort of big-bucks incentive program that California and Massachusetts have rolled out over the past decade. Yet in recent months, the region has also enjoyed good biotech news as well: Novo Nordisk plans to establish a new obesity research team in Seattle, where Celgene also plans to create an Immuno-Oncology Center of Excellence, for which a leader has been named. One spinout of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Adaptive Biotechnologies, raised $105 million in Series D financing in April, while another Fred Hutch spinout, Juno Therapeutics, has racked up an impressive $310 million from investors that include Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos’ personal investment company Bezos Expeditions.