Alex Philippidis Senior News Editor Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News

Thinking of relocating for work? Here’s where to start looking.

To generate its list of the top 10 U.S. regions in which to secure a biotech job, GEN adopted a straightforward methodology. It 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, BioSpace, Medzilla, Indeed, and Monster.

The locales with the most biopharma-related jobs include the regular suspects—San Francisco and Boston—and also up and comers like the New York metropolitan area, which has grown steadily over the last few years.

New York

While metro New York has long enjoyed access to capital and top-flight research hospitals, the Big Apple has taken a bigger bite of biopharma since the 2007–09 recession. Reasons include the long fractious community of nonprofit teaching hospitals and research institutions finally uniting behind initiatives like the New York Genome Center; the construction of new facilities, notably the Alexandria Center™ for Life Science on Manhattan’s East Side, with pharma giants such as Roche and Eli Lilly’s ImClone subsidiary filling the space; and the solid support of business and political leaders led by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who leaves office at year’s end. The wide-ranging New York region includes a mix of legacy pharmas and biotechs in northern and central New Jersey, as well as mature biotechs in New York’s Westchester County, led by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, which in April said it will add 400 jobs by late 2015 through an expansion of its headquarters within The Landmark at Eastview.

Boston/Cambridge, MA

Long the East Coast’s biggest biopharma cluster, Boston/Cambridge expects several biopharma giants to complete their facility expansions over the next year, creating hundreds of new jobs—and accelerating what has been near-flat job growth since the 2007–09 recession, in part due to increased activity in neighboring New York. Vertex Pharmaceuticals will open its new headquarters at Fan Pier on the South Boston waterfront, while Biogen Idec, Novartis, and Pfizer, are building new Cambridge, MA, sites. Yet Boston/Cambridge retains numerous advantages, from its critical mass of universities, research institutions, and companies, to 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

The nation’s largest biocluster began a generation ago in South San Francisco with a scrappy startup named Genentech. And while the San Francisco Bay Area has been challenged in recent years by cutbacks at its largest businesses and its high cost of doing business, as several biopharma CEOs have lamented, the region is also enjoying the IPO boom of the past year, as several homegrown biotechs have gone public including Five Prime Therapeutics and KaloBio, OncoMed Pharmaceuticals, and Portola Pharmaceuticals. As for Genentech, now a Roche subsidiary, it announced plans October 14 to spend $285 million in California but outside the Bay Area by adding 250 jobs in Oceanside (San Diego County) and Vacaville, where an existing plant will be expanded into what the company claims will be the world’s biggest manufacturer of biologics. It’s an outgrowth of Roche’s companywide plans to spend CHF 800 million ($874.6 million) and add 500 jobs worldwide over five years to grow its production capacity for antibody-drug conjugates as well as biologics.


Greater Philadelphia enjoys proximity to the heritage pharma giants that arose in the region and Pennsylvania’s neighbors to the south (Delaware) and north (New Jersey). But the region has also jumpstarted numerous biotechs over the past generation, both through the University City Science Center and, more recently, as spinouts from its universities, research institutes, and research hospitals. Among priorities for the region is attracting and retaining top talent; executive search firm Klein Hersh International held its latest Philly BioBreak invitation-only event for life sciences executives on October 15. “Our goal is to bring together the key players in the industry, many of which are locally based, and develop partnerships and strategies that will keep these great minds in the area,” says Martin Lehr, co-host of Philly BioBreak, which says it has 1,300 members.

Los Angeles

Sandwiched between California’s two larger biopharma regional clusters that have grown around San Francisco and San Diego, Los Angeles had long struggled to parlay its onetime manufacturing prowess into a successful life-sci industry. But the region has enjoyed more success in recent years—part of which reflects Amgen’s continued growth and acquisition of niche companies, most recently cancer drug specialist Onyx Pharmaceuticals in a $10.4 billion deal that closed October 1. Smaller biopharmas have taken root; City of Hope spinoff, Meditope, won $3.6 million in Series A funding in August to advance its monoclonal antibody (mAb) linker technology platform. Another priority for the region is training workers for biotech jobs. The Community College Consortium for Biosciences Credentials, based at Los Angeles Valley College, has been established through a three-year, $1.7 million Department of Labor grant won by the school last year.


The Windy City might well be called the BIO city, having hosted the Biotechnology Industry Organization’s annual conventions in 2010 and this year. The April 22–25 convention gave Chicago and suburban Chicagoland a chance to trumpet several initiatives—led by a planned new downtown Bioscience & Pharmaceutical Industry Commercialization and Innovation Center. The center will be filled in part by the consortium Chicago Innovation Mentors, whose partners include Northwestern University, the University of Chicago, University of Illinois, Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, Argonne Laboratories, and iBIO Institute’s PROPEL Center, which assists life-sci startups. In January, Northwestern Medicine—a consortium of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern Medical Faculty Foundation, and Northwestern Memorial HealthCare—announced plans for a $1 billion, 1.2 million-square-foot biomedical research facility in Chicago’s Streeterville neighborhood. The University of Chicago has expanded its biotech presence, while the 560-acre Illinois Medical District has grown to more than 80 health, education, public safety, social service, and technology organizations, two medical universities, and four major medical centers. The region’s industry anchors are established pharmas that are either based in suburbs of Chicago, such as Abbott Laboratories and its AbbVie prescription-drug spinoff, or have U.S. headquarters in the region, such as Japanese drug developers Astellas Pharma and Takeda Pharmaceutical.

Washington, DC (includes parts of Maryland and Virginia)

The region that NIH and FDA call home has had some adjusting to do in recent years, as two if its most successful biotechs that began as homegrown startups got bought by pharma giants—MedImmune in 2007 (by AstraZeneca for $15.6 billion) and Human Genome Sciences (HGS; by GlaxoSmithKline for $3 billion). MedImmune has been transformed into AstraZeneca’s biologics unit, with the company opening the Frederick (MD) Manufacturing Center in 2011. GSK is expected to keep HGS going in Maryland since the companies have partnered on drug projects stretching back two decades. The region’s biocluster has won support from officials in Maryland and Virginia. In Maryland, state officials have expanded the biotechnology tax credit—to $10 million this year from $8 million—toward angel investment for spinoffs or startups, resulting in more than 150 registrations submitted by investors. In Virginia, state officials have exempted from state income tax the long-term capital gains of investors in early-stage biotechs through June 30, 2015, and increased Angel Investment Tax Credit funding in February from $4 million to $4.5 million this year and $5 million in 2014, while the Virginia Biotechnology Research Park announced plans in July for an $18 million expansion that will add up to 50,000 square feet of new office and lab space to the campus.

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

A generation after Research Triangle Park succeeded by drawing the manufacturing operations of pharma giants from the costlier and colder Northeast, Raleigh-Durham is enjoying another wave of biopharma growth—not as much from drug developers as from contract research organizations. The region is home to the world’s largest CRO, Quintiles, as well as numerous others including giants INC Research and PRA International, the latter acquired by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. in a deal completed September 24. The region and the rest of North Carolina have been challenged, however, by tighter state spending. In July, the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, a national model for regional bioindustry development through cross-sector partnerships, saw its budget cut by more than one-quarter or $4.6 million: It responded with a statement highlighting the industry’s 23.5% job growth over the past decade, and promising to redouble its efforts to create additional biopharma jobs.

San Diego

With apologies to Charles Dickens, 2013 has seen the best and worst of times for the San Diego region’s biopharma community. The close-knit cluster was plunged into mourning when Duane J. Roth, 63, lost his life August 3, from injuries in a July 21 bicycling accident. Roth was CEO of Connect, which helped found more than 3,000 San Diego-area biopharma and other tech companies since 1985. Also on the down side, Bristol-Myers Squibb said in April it was eliminating all its roughly 400 regional jobs by the end of 2014—jobs that were created by Amylin Pharmaceuticals, which was headquartered in San Diego until the pharma giant acquired the biotech last year in a complex $7 billion, three-company deal. Three more home-grown companies found buyers in 2013: Life Technologies (acquired by Thermo Fisher Scientific for $13.6 billion plus $2.2 billion in Life Tech debt), Aragon Pharmaceuticals (Johnson & Johnson), and Trius Therapeutics (Cubist Pharmaceuticals). Regulus Therapeutics netted $51 million through a successful IPO sequencing giant Illumina dedicates its new 497,000-square-foot headquarters, whose amenities include a fitness center with coffee bar, and an outdoor amphitheater that seats 1,750.


A decade ago, it looked like Seattle was taxiing on the proverbial runway for takeoff into a top-tier biopharma cluster. Since then, the region’s corporate biopharma presence has struggled for reasons ranging from M&A activity (Merck snapped up the Rosetta Research Center, then shut it down) to rivals and price pressures (Dendreon has struggled with the $93,000 price of prostate cancer treatment Provenge, plus competition from prostate cancer drugs by Johnson & Johnson and Medivation). Seattle research institutes have been positioning themselves for growth: Last month the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center named longtime clinical research division head Frederick R. Appelbaum. M.D., as deputy director, charged with maintaining its fiscal health. PATH drew praise from Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee for the development of its SE200 electrochlorinator with Seattle-based Cascade Designs, designed to purify drinking water in poor communities worldwide. During 2011, both Leroy (Lee) Hood’s Institute for Systems Biology and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation moved into new headquarters sites.

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