This year’s Top 10 U.S. Biopharma Clusters List features the same 10 regions as last year’s GEN List, but the top seven occupy slightly different positions than they did in the 2014 list.

One factor in the changes this past year has been a recovering venture capital market, which pushed numbers above last year’s totals for most, though not all regions (three showed declines and one was flat over 2013). For example, the top region racked up $1.82 billion in 2014, versus $1.447 billion in 2013.

Also rising has been the pace of NIH funding, where the current federal fiscal year-to-date’s top number of $312.797 million was one-third higher than last year’s ($201.4 million). While the prospect of long-term budget growth for NIH remains uncertain, nearly all regions saw significant increases from last year, where grant awarding was hobbled by the political showdown over across-the-board budget cuts or “Sequestration.”

The New York cluster has been expanded and renamed the New York/New Jersey cluster, to better reflect the fact that the region’s biopharma resources straddle the state line—a fact long acknowledged by laboratory space real estate brokerages and even many companies, which have in recent years moved across the border, based on incentives and other factors—as Bayer HealthCare did in 2013 when it consolidated its East Coast operations in Whippany, NJ.

GEN ranks regions based on five criteria:

  • NIH funding—Taken from the publicly available NIH RePORT database, for the current federal fiscal year, from its start on October 1, 2014, through February 9.
  • Venture Capital (VC) funding—Taken from figures furnished by the publicly available MoneyTree Report.
  • Patents—Based on the number of patents containing the word “biotechnology” awarded since 1976 in namesake cities and suburbs where key companies are located.
  • Lab space—Based on total-size-of-market figures, in millions of square feet, furnished by the commercial real estate brokerage JLL in its Life Sciences Cluster Report for 2014.
  • Jobs—Based on JLL’s report. While job numbers are ranked this year compared with last year’s Top 10 US Clusters list, less weight has to be given to job totals in regions where GEN has found widespread discrepancies in job figures. However, workforce size was factored in when deciding the ultimate position of a region.

#10. Chicagoland

The Windy City and its suburbs ranked best in 2014 venture capital (eighth), with $146.608 million in six deals, and at least one significant VC award already this year—a $45 million investment from Third Rock Venture to launch Revolution Medicines. Chicagoland was ninth in patents (898), tenth in both NIH funding ($67.752 million) and jobs (15,646 according to JLL, though the Illinois Medical District alone counts 29,230 without breaking down specialties), but 12th in lab space (1.5 million square feet). Over the past year or so, two research centers have opened—incubator EnterpriseWorks Chicago, whose “Health, Technology and Innovation” (HTI) initiative anchored at Chicago Technology Park offers shared wet and dry labs for startups; and the AbbVie Innovation Center at the University of Illinois Research Park in Urbana-Champaign, where students have started work on several of the biopharma’s R&D IT projects.

#9. Los Angeles

The City of Angels and nearby Orange County may constitute California’s third biotech cluster after the Bay Area and San Diego. But it shouldn’t be too surprising that the second-largest region by population has the second-largest workforce (54,575 jobs according to JLL) among the clusters. But it’s all downhill from there, as the region ranks eighth in patents (1,163), and ninth in both NIH funding ($87.352 million) and lab space (4 million square feet). LA/Orange fared worst in 2014 venture capital financing, racking up $35.417 million in 12 deals. Many of these rankings should be expected to improve in coming years; the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in November approved a “Biotech Master Plan” to advance the industry and identify biotech opportunities at all five LA county medical campuses, following a study by Battelle. Another challenge for the region is nurturing new jobs as Amgen shrinks the workforce size at its global HQ in Thousand Oaks.

#8. Raleigh-Durham, NC (includes Research Triangle Park, NC)

The mecca of biopharma in North Carolina draws its best rankings in NIH funding ($102.603 million) and lab space (6.64 million), both good enough to place sixth. The region ranks ninth in VC funding ($103.499 million in 10 deals); ninth in jobs (22,960 according to JLL, 24,470 according to Battelle Technology Partnership Practice); and lower in patents (#11 with 816). While big pharma’s migration from the Northeast put Research Triangle Park on the proverbial map, it has been contract research organizations and biotechs that have expanded in North Carolina in recent years; in January, Biogen Idec disclosed plans to add a total 100 jobs at its biologics facility in Morrisville, and small dose facility in Durham.

#7. Seattle

From the Space Needle to the 175-foot-high Great Wheel, the region likes to aim high—and in biopharma, at least, it has some positive results. The home of Starbucks has racked up a lot of bucks in private capital (more than $300 million since 2013) and an initial public offering (about $265 million last December) through a single company, home-grown Juno Therapeutics. Seattle came in third for NIH funding, and sixth in VC ($196.162 million in 13 deals) and patents (1,623). The region lags, however, in lab space (#8 at 4.6 million square feet) and especially jobs (#11 at 14,997 according to JLL)4. The job situation could worsen when Amgen shuts down its R&D campus at Seattle’s Elliott Bay and manufacturing site in Bothell, eliminating a total 660 positions. Yet Juno said February 9 it will open a new Bothell manufacturing center in 2016; the company didn’t say how many jobs it will create.

#6. Greater Philadelphia

The birthplace of independence saw a nice year-over-year increase in venture capital financing, leaping almost 30% over 2013 to $211.376 million in 23 deals last year, good enough for fifth on this year’s VC rankings. It’s the strongest sign yet that it has made progress in evolving from a heritage pharma mecca to a more diverse concentration of biopharma businesses and institutions (including 25 medical schools). Philadelphia’s University City Science Center has long been an anchor for regional biopharma; in October it won a $1 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration for a second commercialization program, Phase 1 Ventures. The region is also fifth in jobs (48,874 according to JLL), but seventh in patents (1,195) and lab space (6.62 million square feet), as well as eighth in NIH funding ($87.596 million).

#5. Maryland / DC Metro

The home region of the NIH, FDA, and CDC has something to show for the distinction—a number-three ranking in patents (3,531), just over half of which (1,798 or 51%) are held by the parent of all three agencies, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. MD-DC metro is also third in lab space (11.1 million square feet). The region is middle-of-the list in NIH funding (fifth at $133.499 million), of which Johns Hopkins University accounted for 71% or $94.867 million; and lower in jobs (36,558 according to JLL)3, and venture capital (11th with $77.32 million in 25 deals). The job numbers could have been worse: Home-grown MedImmune, now the biologics arm of AstraZeneca, disclosed plans in November to add 300 jobs in a $200 million expansion of its Frederick, MD, manufacturing facility, while Emergent BioSolutions plans to hire 158 employees in an expansion of its Baltimore manufacturing facility supported by a $2 million loan from Maryland’s Dept. of Business and Economic Development.

#4. San Diego

The city that calls itself “America’s Finest” and surrounding area had its best score in venture capital funding (number-three at $494.46 million in 42 deals), and also did well in patents compared to three much larger regions (fourth with 2,644). Where the region slid on the scale was in NIH funding (seventh at $90.899 million), jobs (sixth at 46,145 according to JLL)2, and lab space (fifth at 9.5 million square feet), though that will grow when sequencing giant Illumina completes the San Diego manufacturing center announced over the summer. The job numbers appear to reflect layoffs at home-grown companies in recent years (400 former Amylin Pharmaceuticals employees were laid off in 2013 following the company’s sale to Bristol-Myers Squibb).

#3. New York/New Jersey

The Empire State/Garden State tandem is tops in jobs (77,645 according to JLL) and lab space (20.6 million square feet), reflecting its status as having the nation’s largest region, numerous research institutions, and a sizeable heritage pharma industry. But size alone is less an explanation for its number-two showing in NIH funding ($177.521 million) than all those research centers. Yet those centers’ 2,514 patents lag behind those of Maryland and San Diego, let alone Boston/Cambridge and the Bay Area. Despite being the home region of Wall Street and the nation’s finance industry, NY/NJ only places fourth in VC funding ($321.015 million in 25 deals), yet that’s an improvement over five years earlier ($286.807 million).

#2. San Francisco Bay Area

The region of the Golden Gate and vicinity tops the field in patents (8,851), only 19% of which are the 1,683 patents held by the Trustees of the University of California. SF finishes a very close second to Boston-Cambridge in 2014 venture capital ($1.816 billion in 110 deals) and fourth in NIH funding ($143.996 million) and jobs (50,038 according to JLL).1 While the region was also pegged fourth in lab space with 10.89 million square feet of lab space, that’s an awful lot lower than recorded in past years (29.7 million, according to the 2014 GEN List). So let’s split the difference and say 20 million square feet, which would catapult SF to a very close second behind New York/New Jersey. But no less than 2.797 million square feet is under construction in NY/NJ, so in a year or two, depending what gets built in the Bay Area, we could be looking at a new leader in lab space.

#1. Boston-Cambridge

The Red Sox region’s 5,002 patents were second only to the San Francisco Bay Area. But more like the region’s Super Bowl-winning New England Patriots, Boston/Cambridge was number-one on three measures—2014 venture capital, albeit by only $4 million more than the Bay Area ($1.82 billion in 88 deals), NIH funding ($312.797 million), and lab space (21.204 million). Boston/Cambridge’s worst ranking was third on number of jobs [no matter if you go by JLL with 54,008, or statewide industry group MassBio, which counts 57,642], though to be fair, the region lost out to two much larger geographies in NY/NJ and LA.


1. The region was counted as having 60,636 “biomedical” jobs by the California Healthcare Institute (CHI) in its 2015 California Biomedical Industry Report, released in November. That’s comparable to the total 62,547 “life sciences jobs” calculated by JLL. However, both numbers included jobs in medical device and equipment-related categories not covered by GEN.
2. CHI counted 36,731 total “biomedical” jobs in its 2015 California Biomedical Industry Report, released in November, including medical device and equipment positions.
3. BioMaryland, the state’s life sciences support office within the state’s Department of Business and Economic Development, counts 71,600 direct “life sciences” jobs across business, academic, and federal government.
4. In its 2014 Annual Report the Washington Biotechnology & Biomedical Association counted 34,200 “direct jobs in life sciences”—down from 35,500 a year earlier.

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