Funding, Innovation Drive Life Sciences Success

Rapid growth and expanding boundaries propel location searches for companies in this industry at the forefront.

By Donna Clapp
From the March/April 2023 Issue

The life sciences industry growth has outpaced almost every other industry in the last few years. According to CBRE’s most recent report on the growth of the life sciences sector, total employment in the industry increased by 5.4%, or 105,000 jobs, in 2022. Job growth in the sector grew 79% between 2001-2021 compared with 8% growth for all U.S. occupations. The biotech sector alone had a $2.9 trillion impact on the U.S. economy in 2021, according to the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) and the Council of State Bioscience Associations (CSBA).

“This data highlights the vital role U.S. bioscience companies have in creating jobs and stimulating the economy. The report further shows the industry’s enormous role in navigating the COVID-19 pandemic, both in terms of getting life-saving therapies and vaccines to patients, as well as economic recovery,” said Pete Pellerito, BIO Senior Policy Adviser for Federal and State Economic Development and Technology Transfer Initiatives.

Life sciences clusters are located in regions with healthy levels of funding and investment, an employment funnel of the right talent, and a real estate infrastructure that supports expansion. Following are some of the U.S. locations that have all the right conditions to grow your businesses in this sector.

life sciences industry
(Photo: Adobe Stock)

Chicago Evolving The Innovation Ecosystem

A great sign of healthy growth is the amount of venture capital funding being provided to life sciences startup companies that stay and scale up in the same region. According to World Business Chicago’s Lisa Dziekan, Senior Vice President, Business Development and FDI, the city saw a 556% increase in venture capital funding in 2021.

“We’re seeing trends that continue to support Chicago’s growing resonance as a leading life science hub,” said Robin Ficke, Vice President, Research, World Business Chicago. “Chicago tech companies experienced record-breaking levels of venture capital investment, over $10 billion in total for 2022, driven in large part by investments in healthtech and life science companies.”

A tour of MxD (manufacturing incubator) where the U.S. Department of Defense announced it will host the first ever Innovation Office for the Midwest. (Photo: World Business Chicago)


As the city’s public-private economic development agency, World Business Chicago recognizes that kind of increase doesn’t come out of the blue. It’s taken a decade of dedicated efforts for the region’s economic developers to put in place the ideal ingredients for creating an innovation ecosystem.

“Historically, we had large pharma companies like AbbVie, Baxter, and Medline,” says Dziekan. “The region has over 2,200 life sciences companies, and a strong research university infrastructure as well. At World Business Chicago, we’re deliberately connecting corporate partners with university partners in our innovation ecosystem to capture what is launching out of those universities and growing it here in Chicago. So I would call it an evolving market, capturing the strengths that we’ve had and connecting the ecosystem in a more deliberate way.”

World Business Chicago made it a priority to grow a base of VC firms in the city who understand the assets that companies need to scale up are right there in Chicago.

Paragon Biosciences, a life sciences innovator headquartered in Chicago since 2010, has invested over $1.4 billion to build life science companies in the region.

“Paragon Biosciences creates, builds, and funds life science companies and launches most of them from Chicago for several reasons,” says Eric Messner, Senior Vice President of Business Development for Paragon Biosciences, and Chief Business Officer of Emalex Biosciences. “First, we have a history here and many of the core team have lived in the Chicago area for many years. Second, a key element is the large pool of strong, experienced biopharmaceutical talent in Chicago. The depth of biotech experience in this area is a key reason we choose to stay and grow here. There is a strong pipeline of talent, novel ideas, and innovations coming through the University of Chicago, Northwestern, and the University of Illinois, plus other Big 10 schools, and our academic medical centers. That’s the environment you want to build and scale life sciences businesses, in particularly as more laboratory space comes online to accommodate growth in the biotech industry.”

New York City Creating The Space For Growth

A location long known for its cutting-edge universities and research hospitals, highly skilled workforce, diverse labor pool, and deep investment pockets, New York City is a hotspot for the life sciences industry. Through LifeSci NYC, developed in 2016, the New York City Economic Development Council says it is on track to unlock 10 million square feet of wet- and dry-lab real estate, build an ecosystem with over 1,000 companies, create 40,000 jobs, and generate $82 billion in overall economic impact over the next 10-15 years, making NYC a global leader in life sciences. Funding of life sciences companies through venture capital and the National Institutes of Health reached all-time highs in New York City in 2021 at $4.15 billion.

“We have incredible research happening in the region, whether that’s at Columbia University, New York University, or our City University of New York system,” says Susan Rosenthal Senior Vice President, Life Sciences and Healthcare, NYCEDC. “But in the past, New York City didn’t have the spaces for companies to land in because developers were not sure if they could create wet labs and the facilities needed for life sciences in various buildings across the city. So, we created a zoning memo that clarified the zoning so they could develop more wet lab spaces.”

Over the past few years, NYCEDC has committed $2 billion to create wet labs and incubators to grow the life sciences sector, including:

BioLabs partnered with NYU Langone Health to build a unique biotech co-working facility in Manhattan to attract the best companies in early-stage life sciences. (Photo: Biolabs@NYULangone)


  • The Science Park and Research Campus at Kips Bay (SPARC), a new 1.5 million-square-foot life sciences, public health, and academic mixed-use project that will generate approximately $25 billion in economic impact to the city and create 10,000 jobs over the next 30 years.
  • BioLABS at NYULangone, with 50,000 square feet of newly renovated and fully equipped laboratory and office space.
  • Innolabs, a 260,000-square-foot Long Island City lab space.
  • BioBAT, an existing 250,000 square foot space that will be expanded with a $50 million investment.
  • CURE, redevelopment of a 12-story building in Manhattan’s Flatiron District into a life sciences campus to provide more office space, wet labs, and programming to support startups.
  • In January, Mayor Eric Adams pledged $20 million to build a biotech incubator at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

Life Sciences & Lifelong Learning

By BF Editors

The skills required by life sciences firms are often quite specific and are also evolving with each new discovery. Companies need to know that the talent pipeline is strong, and partnerships between potential locations and educational institutions are one of the primary factors in site selection.

Wake County, North Carolina is an example of a region with a strong life sciences sector, with economic developers and other stakeholders focused on advancing the industry there. The county has launched several initiatives to become a frontrunner for businesses looking to select sites for new or expanding projects. Since 2020, Wake County along with the broader Research Triangle Region initiatives has brought in almost 6,000 jobs and $5 billion.

The 2022 Workforce Forward Bond allowed Wake County voters to approve $353.2 million in bonds to pay for Wake Tech’s strategic growth, which is crucial to preparing the skilled workforce the region’s growing economy requires. The bond funds will pay for the construction of a 120,000-square-foot facility on the Perry Health Sciences Campus.

RTP Bio Initiative is a program that allows students of Wake Tech and Durham Tech to transfer between the two to attain an associate’s degree in Biopharmaceutical Technology, Biotechnology (programs of Wake Tech), Clinical Trials Research Associate, Biomedical Equipment Technology, and Biotechnology Biomanufacturing (programs of Durham Tech).

Available to local universities, the Lilly Science and Technology Center Wake Tech’s RTP Campus was created to provide students with better opportunities in the life sciences sector. The new facility will house 23 smart classrooms and several science labs.

A partnership between Wake Technical College and FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies allowed the Early College Suite to be opened in October of 2022. The FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies Early College Suite allows students to pursue dual-enrollment opportunities in biotechnology and information technology.

North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and Wake Tech announced a partnership last year that will allow NC A&T students to use classrooms and office spaces within the Lilly Science and Technology Center. A plan to develop co-admission, or dual enrollment programs, to facilitate the transfer of Wake Tech students to North Carolina A&T University is in the making.

NC Biotech, along with a coalition of public/private organizations, was named the winner of the Build Better Regional Challenge. The $25 million grant is set to be used to strengthen the life sciences industry across the state, by creating jobs and upskilling workers.

North Carolina is not the only state taking strides to bolster its life sciences sector. Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania also has its sights set on expansion in the industry. Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania launched a fund to help startups in the life sciences sector for Lehigh Valley.

The Life Science and Healthcare Technology Fund will match up to $250,000 of investments from academic institutions, regional healthcare providers, and private corporations that create spinoff companies or develop life science-related technologies.

The Pennsylvania region has attracted newer companies, many of which got their start at Ben Franklin. Among the success stories is OraSure Technologies, which made the world’s first at-home HIV test and now is producing COVID-19 tests.

Lehigh Valley is home to more than 170 life sciences businesses, including global leaders B. Braun Medical and Olympus of the Americas, and has a niche in the medical device industry. Since 2021, a million square feet of life sciences space has been added in the Lehigh Valley to promote expansion.

Due to these investments inventory for life sciences space is projected to more than double to 4.64 million square feet by 2025.

Pasco County, FL Creates Monumental Medical City

In December 2022 Moffitt Cancer Center and the Pasco County Economic Development Council in Florida unveiled plans for building a new “medical city” called Speros FL, a $9.3 billion venture to develop 775 acres into 16 million square feet of clinical, lab, manufacturing, and office space.

“You cannot separate cancer research and treatment from hope, which is the root of the name ‘Speros FL’ and the driving force behind all that we do at Moffitt Cancer Center,” said Dr. Patrick Hwu, President and CEO of Moffitt, at the unveiling. “Our vision is to be the global epicenter for personalized oncology care and leading research that will revolutionize the way we prevent, find, and treat cancer.”

life sciences industry
Moffitt Cancer Center leaders broke ground on Speros FL broke earlier this year in January. (Photo: Pasco EDC)


The Pasco County EDC spent years working with state legislators to create just the right environment to start this project. As part of securing the deal Pasco EDC collaborated to have the Florida legislature increase the amount of cigarette tax allocation Moffitt receives, providing enough money for them to buy the land. Also key to the deal was getting the oldest permit in history approved by the Army Corps of Engineers to build a road connecting the property to Interstate 75. At that point the project was possible. With convenient access to Tampa International Airport and major interstates, Speros FL will be a monumental-sized campus.

“Moffitt realized years ago that they would never be able to bring their research and science partners directly next door to them because they were located in the city of Tampa encroached on by the city, with academia and other types of businesses taking up the surrounding buildings, leaving them no room for growth or collaboration,” says Pasco EDC CEO Bill Cronin. “So the vision was to find a footprint large enough to take Moffitt to the next level and go beyond just responding to the current need, instead being proactive to satisfy needs even further down the road.”

The state-of-the-art facility is the largest in Moffitt’s 36-year history and will be designed as an influential hub for enterprises from an intersection of the life sciences and biotech industry including medical, education, pharmaceutical, venture capital, and incubation.

Pittsburgh’s Innovation Fuels Life Science Ecosystem

Pittsburgh, PA had more than 200 life science and healthcare companies that announced expansions or capital investments representing $4 billion in the region between 2010 and 2020. Pittsburgh is fast gaining a reputation as a well-regarded hub for research and development in life sciences, ranking No. 1 in CBRE’s 2022 list of top emergence clusters in the U.S.

“The Pittsburgh region has a longstanding reputation as a leader in world-changing life sciences and healthcare innovation,” says Matt Smith, Chief Growth Officer, Allegheny Conference on Community Development. “Our position as a trailblazer in this sector is only growing as our ecosystem continues to generate leading-edge technology in medical device manufacturing, biotechnology, artificial intelligence, and much more. It’s happening in the Pittsburgh region because of the depth of industrial expertise in manufacturing, higher education research and development leading to sector breakthroughs, and an entrepreneurial and collaborative approach here that brings it all together.”

Pitt BioForge
Pitt BioForge in Pittsburgh, PA. (Photo: University UPMC)


Anchor universities, such as the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University, have been providing fuel for a burgeoning life science ecosystem. The University of Pittsburgh (UP) is routinely one of the nation’s leaders in NIH funding, receiving more than $600 million in 2022 alone.

Partnership and collaboration have contributed to the acceleration of the life sciences in the Pittsburgh region. One example is a recent partnership between Cambridge, MA-based ElevateBio and UP to create a biomanufacturing center at Pitt BioForge, near the city’s Innovation District. Another notable example is a partnership between UP and Wexford Science & Technology LLC to renovate the Ford Motor Co. manufacturing plant into a new research hub called The Assembly which opened in May 2022.

New Jersey Has A Long History As A Life Sciences Hub

According to Cushman & Wakefield’s Q1 2022 Life Sciences Industry report, two of the top 10 largest transactions for life sciences public and private investment in the last two years were awarded to New Jersey companies: Certara ($668 million), a drug development software and services company headquartered in Princeton, and Catalent ($548 million), a drug development, delivery, and supply company for pharma, biotech, and consumer health based in Somerset.

life sciences industry
New Jersey Institute of Technology is a public research university in Newark, NJ.


Not surprising since the Garden State has a strong history as a life sciences hub, and today is home to eight of the world’s top 10 life sciences companies, including the global headquarters of Johnson & Johnson, Merck, and Bristol Myers Squibb, as well as the U.S. headquarters of Novartis, Bayer, Teva, Eisai, and others.

The state is investing big in new, mixed-use lab facilities such as Helix in New Brunswick, a four-million-square-foot project designed to connect companies with researchers to develop new products, and The Cove in Jersey City, a 13-acre, mixed-use campus, offering 1.4 million square feet of academic and commercial life science laboratory and office space.

In 2022, the state launched the $300 million Innovation Evergreen Fund to support startups, and this year they launched the $60 million Life Sciences Investment Fund to support early stage life science businesses.

Does your biotech company have a relocation or expansion project in the works? Check out all the latest economic development, corporate relocation, corporate expansion and site selection news related to the biotech and pharma industries.