Massachusetts Biopharma Shows Workforce, Investment Growth

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Harvard Square in Cambridge


Massachusetts’ top-tier biopharma cluster continued to see employment and investment growth last year, according to the latest edition of the annual report from the state’s life sciences industry group, released today.

The Bay State’s biopharma workforce grew 4.3% last year to a total 69,941 jobs, up from 67,046 in 2016, the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council (MassBio) reported in its Industry Snapshot 2018.

The 2017 total represents a nearly 29% increase in Massachusetts biopharma jobs from the 54,280 reported in 2008, MassBio said.

Sanofi remains Massachusetts’ largest biopharma employer, though its workforce shrunk by 200 from MassBio’s Industry Snapshot 2017, to 4,800 employees. Shire remained number-two while adding 10 employees year-over-year, bringing its total up to 3,050. MassBio’s figures for the state’s largest biopharma employers come from membership reports and surveys, as well as the Boston Business Journal’s Book of Lists 2018.

As GEN has noted—and detailed with statistics in ranking Boston/Cambridge, MA number-one among Top 10 U.S.Biopharma Clusters last year— Massachusetts’ biopharma cluster has capitalized on longtime strengths, from the presence of research universities and their professors, students, and graduates to a manufacturing base increasingly focused on biopharma as other industries moved to lower-cost countries or states.

More than half of Massachusetts’ total biopharma jobs are in biotech R&D, which last year rose to 35,768 jobs, up 4.1% from 34,366 in 2016, the report stated. Massachusetts has added 9,329 biotech R&D jobs, up 35%, in the 10 years since 2008—a year after the “Research and development in biotechnology” job classification was created and added to the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS).


Second in R&D Jobs

However, Massachusetts’ growth in biotech R&D jobs was only about half that of California, which produced 17,954 such jobs between 2008 and 2017, up nearly 85%. The Golden State saw its R&D job growth zoom 15% year-over-year, to 39,203 jobs last year—catapulting California over Massachusetts to become the nation’s top state for biopharma R&D jobs.

Rounding out the top five states in biotech R&D jobs last year were Maryland (15,351 jobs), Pennsylvania (13,413), and New Jersey (12,976).

In biopharma manufacturing, MassBio said, Massachusetts last year recorded 10,072 jobs, down 1.9% from 10,264 in 2016, but still up 5.1% from 9,581 jobs in 2008. MassBio noted that Massachusetts’ 10-year rate compared favorably with the 8% decline (24,000 jobs) nationally.

Massachusetts’ biopharma manufacturing workforce was the nation’s 10th largest. The state with the largest such workforce, California, had 52,125 biomanufacturing jobs in 2017, up 3.3% from 50,456 the previous year.

Yet while California’s number of biopharma manufacturing jobs grew 21% above the 43,035 jobs recorded for 2008, the Golden State did not enjoy the highest rate of biomanufacturing employment growth. California finished third in 10-year biomanufacturing job growth to Maryland (37%), which reported 8,333 jobs, and number-one Utah (47%) with 6,882.

California also enjoyed the highest amount of, with 3,939 jobs created between 2006 and 2015, while Massachusetts ranked second with 2,672 jobs, the report added. North Carolina (2,275 jobs), Maryland (1,741), and Texas (1,597) rounded out the top five states.

According to the report, job data comes from both the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW), and data from privately owned companies.


Strengths in IPO, VC Investment

MassBio also reported that Massachusetts biotechs accounted for nearly half (48%) of all U.S.-based biotech initial public offerings (IPOs) last year, up from 30% in 2016. That dominance has continued into this year, with 15 Massachusetts-based companies issuing their first public stock 2018 this year—nearly 40% all U.S.-based biotech IPOs issued during the first half of 2018.

More encouraging, according to MassBio, was that nearly half of the 12 Massachusetts IPOs completed in 2017 were carried out by companies based outside the Boston/Cambridge, MA, region, in suburbs such as Waltham, Newton, and Burlington.

The 2017 Massachusetts IPOs ranged from the approximately $132.4 million in net proceeds raised by Akcea Therapeutics—which ranked number 10 on GEN’s list of the Top 25 Biopharma IPOs of 2017—to the approximately $39.5 million in net proceeds raised by Arsanis.

MassBio recorded a record-high year in venture capital investment in Massachusetts last year of $3.1 billion, accounting for more than one-third (37%) of all US biopharma VC dollars—compared with $2.9 billion recorded for 2016. And Massachusetts is on pace to surpass last year’s VC total in 2018, since $2.7 billion was invested between January-June 2018.

The average VC deal size has also increased dramatically year-over-year, going from $34 million in 2017 to $51 million in the first two quarters of 2018, MassBio reported.

“The money will continue to follow the science, and biotech startups will continue to grow throughout Massachusetts, spreading the wealth across the state,” predicted Robert K. Coughlin, president and CEO of MassBio, in a statement. “Massachusetts biopharmas continue to lead the industry in tackling the toughest unmet medical needs, creating a new wave of breakthrough therapies that treat the underlying cause of disease, not just the symptoms, and some that people are even calling cures.

“Cumulatively, it’s creating unbelievable opportunities to change the course of disease and improve the lives of patients, and investors want to be a part of this,” Coughlin added.






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