Companies in Greater Philadelphia’s fast-growing life sciences industry are immersed every day in the very building blocks of human life. But to prosper, these same companies also depend on three building blocks of successful businesses: talent, real estate, and investment.
And after a blockbuster year, each of these key areas is poised to help companies deliver even more growth in 2023; this is no small thing. The efforts of the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia to attract high-flying companies and those with the potential to soar are transforming the region’s economy and workforce and resulting in treatments that are saving lives, not just here but around the world.
Consider these numbers from 2022 that illustrate the region’s surging growth in life sciences and cell and gene therapy.
- Philadelphia ranked as the No. 5 life sciences ecosystem by JLL in its 2022 Life Sciences Research Outlook & Cluster Ranking.
- Greater Philadelphia was ranked No. 2 among 14 cell and gene therapy hubs by Econsult Solutions, Inc.
- The number of cell and gene therapy companies in the region jumped by 39% to 57 since the same time last year.
Here’s where Greater Philadelphia stands – and where it’s going — when it comes to the economic essentials that companies seek.
The search for talent among the nation’s life sciences and cell and gene hubs has never been more competitive. Greater Philadelphia offers many Tier-1 universities and world-renowned research hospitals, a vibrant mix of culture, sports, and family-friendly activities, and a lower cost of living than other major metropolitan areas; this makes the region especially attractive as a place to work, live, and thrive.
The real story is best told by leaders in the field, someone such as Dr. Lindsey George, an attending physician in the Division of Hematology and Director of Clinical In Vivo Gene Therapy at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), and an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine. “I moved to Philadelphia specifically to work at CHOP and assumed I would move back to New York when my training was over,” Dr. George said. “However, I fell in love with Philadelphia and have been here ever since.
“Not only do I feel right at home working in this life sciences ecosystem, I also love how livable this area is. It is so exciting to live in an environment where my family can grow and where there is such dedication to advance the cell and gene therapy space with a critical mass of both talent and resources that span the academic and private sectors.”
She’s hardly alone.
The 2022 Greater Philadelphia Cell and Gene Therapy Workforce Update, commissioned by the Chamber and the University City Science Center, and conducted by Econsult Solutions, found that employment at cell and gene therapy companies and contract manufacturing organizations surged by 80% to 3,600 employees from 2019 to 2022, as measured by LinkedIn profiles. The number of biopharma employees listing cell and gene therapy-related skills grew by more than 200%. With the right investment, industry experts expect similar levels of growth over the next five years. Tens of thousands more work in other health-related fields.
Efforts to support talent growth in the sectors will continue through the Life Science Talent Pipeline Collaborative, an employer-led group working to prepare the region for future job needs. The recent launch of an innovative biotech talent training program, which was a collaboration among six organizations, is culminating with externships at Iovance Biotherapeutics and anticipated job placements in early spring 2023. The pilot project will serve as a model for future skills-based hiring programs, with a collaborative approach to building the region’s talent pipeline.
Healthcare’s evolution continues through good times and bad, which helps make real estate development in this sector more resistant to economic swings.
Currently, there is more than $4 billion worth of life sciences-related real estate development underway in Greater Philadelphia, representing 11 million square feet in new or converted space. In all, Greater Philadelphia ranks fifth in existing and planned inventory of lab and R&D space, with roughly 12 million square feet of existing lab space throughout the metropolitan area.
Massive real estate projects have begun, including the continued development of Spark Therapeutics’ 500,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art gene therapy innovation center on Drexel University’s campus and the University of Pennsylvania and Longfellow Real Estate Partners for Pennovation’s 455,000-square-foot, life sciences facility.
Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) is building a 14-story highrise next to its 20-story Roberts Center for Pediatric Research. The new Schuylkill Avenue Research Building will have 250,000 square feet of “wet lab” space for research on biological and chemical subjects.
Other developments include plans announced by PIDC for the Lower Schuylkill Biotech Campus, and Hilco Redevelopment Partners for The Bellwether District are a part of these growth efforts.
Greater Philadelphia has the people and lab space to turn ideas into treatments – and increasingly, it has the funding.
Companies here attracted $600 million in life sciences venture investment in 2022, according to Big4Bio’s 2022 Year in Review.
Greater Philadelphia also has received at least $1 billion in funding from the National Institutes of Health in each of the past five years. In the cell and gene therapy space, Greater Philadelphia has received more than $317 million since 2018, the most of any region.
For more information about locating or expanding in the region, visit the Select Greater Philadelphia website.