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Who's leading in biotech in 2017? East Coast vs. West Coast

By Stephen Fochios

California and Massachusetts are always mentioned together when speaking about the leading life sciences clusters in the US. They frequently share the number one and number two spots on the many lists that are published in the scientific community. The reason? The abundance of world class educational institutions in these areas give companies easy access to top level talent.

Kendall Square is an example of a thriving and vibrant life sciences focused community in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  It is a stone’s throw away from the likes of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University. Many leading companies have a large presence in this area because they are attracted to the scientific community and the amenities that Kendall Square has to offer; there are world class restaurants, hotels, museums, and cultural gathering places that allow people to come together and share great ideas.

For these reasons, the popularity of Kendall Square has captured the attention of land developers in San Francisco. A recent article in Fierce Biotech, ‘Biotech hotel’ hopes to create West Coast Kendall Square, outlines plans for a project called “Genesis.”  This project would look to essentially create a Kendall Square type of environment to get creative ideas flowing just as they do in Massachusetts. By having all the ingredients of Kendall Square plus the added bonus of warmer weather, this will be sure to attract more and more top companies and talent to the area.

Another article that was published in the balance, World's Largest Biotech Hubs: Boston and the San Francisco Bay, also notes that more people in Boston work exclusively on drug discovery and development vs. San Francisco which appears to focus on other areas in addition to drug discovery. The number of people employed in each of these areas is pretty equal in terms of the number of employees. 

Projects like Genesis could have a huge impact in tipping the scale in favor of an area like San Francisco in terms of the number of people employed in biopharma. If San Francisco were to open up more opportunities in drug discovery, employees in Massachusetts would more than likely be intrigued to possibly relocate to the West Coast. Speaking from personal experience, having worked my whole career in the biotech industry in Massachusetts and braving the New England winters, a change of pace on the west coast may be the perfect prescription!

These types of developments will be sure to continue as the life sciences boom rolls full steam ahead in California and Massachusetts. It is sure to keep these two states battling it out for top billing in the industry. It will be interesting to see what happens next!

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