November 15, 2013 (Vol. 33, No. 20)

No Longer Confined to a Few Areas, Opportunities Can Be Found Nationwide

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.

Prominent biotech clusters have emerged from coast to coast. [nezezon/Fotolia]

New York

While metro New York has long enjoyed access to capital and top-flight research hospitals, it has made biopharma a priority only recently. Notably, the Big Apple has taken a bigger bite of biopharma since the 2007–09 recession. Reasons include the often fractious community of nonprofit teaching hospitals and research institutions managing to unite behind initiatives like the New York Genome Center; the construction of new facilities; and the solid support of business and political interests led by Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

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.

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 home-grown biotechs have gone public.


Greater Philadelphia enjoys proximity to the heritage pharma giants that arose in the region. But the region has also jumpstarted many biotechs, both through the University City Science Center and, more recently, as spinouts from its universities, research institutes, and research hospitals.

Los Angeles

Sandwiched between California’s two larger biopharma regional clusters, which have grown around San Francisco and San Diego, Los Angeles has struggled to parlay its onetime manufacturing prowess into a successful life sciences industry. But the region has enjoyed some success in recent years. For example, Amgen continues to grow, and it has been acquiring niche companies.


The Windy City might well be called the BIO city, having hosted BIO’s annual conventions in 2010 and 2013. The 2013 convention gave Chicago and 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 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.

Washington DC (includes parts of Maryland and Virginia)

The region that the NIH and the FDA call home has had some adjusting to do in recent years, as two if its most successful biotechs that began as home-grown startups got bought by pharma giants—MedImmune in 2007 and Human Genome Sciences. The region’s biocluster has won support from officials in Maryland and Virginia. In Maryland, state officials have expanded the biotechnology tax credit toward angel investment for spinoffs or startups, resulting in more than 150 registrations submitted by investors.

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

A generation after Research Triangle Park succeeded in 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 (CROs). The region is home to the world’s largest CRO, Quintiles, as well as numerous others, including the giants INC Research and PRA International.

San Diego

With apologies to Charles Dickens, 2013 has seen the best and worst of times for the San Diego region’s biopharma community. On the up side, Regulus Therapeutics had a successful IPO, several homegrown companies found buyers, and Illumina dedicated its new headquarters. On the down side, the close-knit cluster mourned the passing of Duane J. Roth. 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 its entire regional workforce—roughly 400 jobs—by the end of 2014.


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).

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