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September 6, 2023

MassBio report: Mass. life science industry outpaces competitor states amid economic challenges

Kendalle Burlin O'Connell, president at MassBio

The life sciences industry in Massachusetts experienced growth in 2022 in employment, total jobs, and continues to bring in venture capital dollars, according to a Sept. 6 industry spotlight report from Cambridge-based MassBio.

In the biopharma research and development sector, the workforce experienced a year- over-year employment growth of 8.5%, according to the report. It outpaced California, which experienced 6.8% growth in the same sector and period. In March, there were over 17,700 job postings for life sciences jobs in Massachusetts. The total number of employees in biopharma peaked in 2022 at 113,994, up from 106,679 the previous year.

Biomanufacturing is up in Massachusetts too, according to the report, though it has slowed significantly in Cambridge, the original life sciences hub in the state. In Suffolk County, biomanufacturing increased 29.1% year-over-year, with Worcester County increasing 18.4%.

After 2020 and 2021 were an all-time boom for the sector, economic factors have made the last year more challenging for the life sciences industry.

“We are optimistic that we are emerging from what was the perfect storm for a sector that was left exposed to a cooling off after a red hot 2020 and 2021. We had some investors going elsewhere, while most others pressed for more data. Wall Street remained closed to new biotechs. Pharma stayed on the sidelines. To add insult to injury, macroeconomic conditions like inflation and rising interest rates hamstrung the global economy,” Kendalle Burlin O'Connell, CEO and president of MassBio wrote in a letter accompanying the report.

While venture capital investment in the industry is down from 2020 and 2021, Massachusetts currently is performing well compared to national figures, according to the report. Biopharma companies headquartered in Massachusetts received 32% of all VC dollars invested in the industry, second only to California, at 36%. This is up from the Mass. figure of 26% the previous year.

Life sciences real estate inventory in Worcester County stands at 2.2 million square feet, with 950,000 square feet under development, according to the report. It has a 7.5% vacancy rate, compared to 3.7% in Suffolk County and 6.2% in Middlesex County. AbbVie and Bristol Myers Squibb are the core companies in the region, according to the report.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story stated that 9.5 million square feet are under development in Worcester County. That number has been updated to reflect the correct figure of 950,000.

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