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Boston Biotech Cluster

The USA remains the global centre for the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry. Currently the biotech industry is widely spread across North America, although San Francisco and Boston remain ahead the chasing pack. Boston is emerging incredibly rapidly to become the biggest, most connected, leading innovation biotech cluster in the world. As the global biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry realigns itself, Boston continues to benefit and grow. Speak to any industry luminary and ask why they believe Boston is doing so well and the answer is consistent – CONNECTIVITY. Boston’s success is fueled by world class universities and research establishments, innovation centres, research hospitals and world class service providers. Boston is home to some of the most famous academic institutions in the world, with Harvard University, University of Massachusetts, Boston University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) all present in the region.

The USA remains the global centre for the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry. Currently the biotech industry is widely spread across North America,  although San Francisco and Boston remain ahead the chasing pack. Boston is emerging incredibly rapidly to become the biggest, most connected, leading innovation biotech cluster in the world.

As the global biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry realigns itself, Boston continues to benefit and grow. Speak to any industry luminary and ask why they believe Boston is doing so well and the answer is consistent – CONNECTIVITY. Boston’s success is fuelled by world class universities and research establishments, innovation centres, research hospitals and world class service providers. Boston is home to some of the most famous research institutions in the world with Harvard, University of Massachusetts, Boston University and MIT all present in the region. Harvard and MIT are home to numerous Nobel laureates and world leading researchers. It is no coincidence therefore, that Boston is the leading recipient of National Institute of Health (NIH) funding in the US. In 2017 Boston accumulated $1.9bn in NIH funding, representing 7.5% of total NIH funding. The funding is shared between the research institutions at the universities and the research hospitals in the cluster. The cluster can boast 5 of the top 8 NIH funded hospitals in the USA. These hospitals are all global market leaders in biotechnology research.

According to estimates, Boston currently (2017) employs around 66,000 professionals within the pharmaceutical, medical device and biotechnology industries, up 28% from 10 years earlier. Therer has been 11 million sq. ft. of lab space added in the same period. These people are a mix of research professionals and people working in pharmaceutical companies. The list of companies within the cluster is truly astonishing, with a mix of global pharma, emerging biopharmaceutical companies and innovative early-stage biotechs.  Many of the global pharma are anticipating increasing head count in Boston but the small company ecosystem is driving the talent demand, with more start-ups attracting talent from outside the state and also from large pharma. 

Alongside the globally recognised pharma companies, Boston has become home to many medium size companies who are currently showing considerable growth in an otherwise moderate growth industry. Shire (acquired 2018 by Takeda), Alkermes, Vertex, Biogen and Millennium (Takeda Oncology Company) are all present in Boston.  The cluster has also given rise to some companies which are shaping the industry in multiple therapeutic areas. Companies such as Editas, BlubirdBio, Alnylam, Voyager Therapeutics, Immunogen, Yumanity, are all innovators in the area. 

Boston has also become a global hub for biotech investments. Within the biotechnology sector alone, Boston was second only to San Francisco in terms of Q4 2012 venture capital funding in the life science pulling in $278m. Over the course of the year in 2012, Boston accumulated a total of $1.32bn in venture capital funding for the life sciences.  Although the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry is global, clearly start-up companies thrive on the local ecosystem. It is no coincidence then that 80% of the total cluster lies within 300sq miles, pointing towards this hyper-connectivity which industry leaders talk of.  The result is that Boston has on average three times as many biotech startups per sq mile than San Francisco.

With many venture capital companies like Atlas Ventures, Bain Capital Partners, Fidelity Biosciences, MVM  Life Science Partners, PureTech Ventures, Polaris, Flagship Pioneering and Third Rock Ventures, Boston is one of the leading centres for biotech investment.

With the desire of many biotechs to remain as trim as possible, the reliance on outsourcing and service provision is highly important. With service companies like Parexel, Charles River Laboratories, Covance and Perkin Elmer all present in the cluster, biotechs are not short of options to access the expertise they require in pre-clinical, clinical and manufacturing needed to develop their products.

The centre of biotechnology and pharmaceuticals in the cluster is Cambridge. Within Cambridge, start-up biotechs and global pharmaceutical companies have come together. Many companies start in Cambridge and then proceed to move to emerging suburbs within Boston such as the Seaport District, or just outside, like Waltham, Lexington or Longwood. This is primarily due to cheaper rentals for laboratory space, however, companies are still close enough to benefit from the considerable talent within the Boston cluster.

The proximity of companies to one another has played a crucial role in the development of the cluster. Talent flows from company to company and many of the leading industry figures having worked their entire careers in the cluster. The closeness has helped to foster a collaborative approach in the cluster with people and companies sharing ideas and innovations, the very exemplar of how the future of this industry will succeed. Having such a close business community means that individuals are happy to put down roots in the area as they know they can always diversify their skills and are in demand. 

With world leading academics, companies and world-class talent, it is little wonder that Boston is now being considered in some quarters as the leading Biotech cluster in the world. The Boston cluster has seen considerable growth in the past 10 years and that trend shows no sign of diminishing.  Liftstream believes this cluster is an exceptional place to develop a career in the sector and with so many promising companies, it should be a hot-bed for future breakthrough research and innovation. 

You can read the work Liftstream has been doing with our partner MassBio to make Massachusetts a more vibrant and diverse employment for life sciences professionals here: https://www.liftstream.com/pathtodiversity.html 

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Facts about Boston Biotech Cluster
  • There are 550 active companies in the life science industry
  • During 2012, Boston accumulated a total of $1.32bn in venture capital funding for the life sciences
  • World leading institutions such as Harvard, University of Massachusetts, Boston University and MIT all present in the region.
  • The cluster can boast 5 of the top 8 NIH funded hospitals in the USA.
  • The cluster employs in excess of 74,000 people in the life sciences
Boston Biotech Cluster Insights

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