Boston Business Journal: MIXED SIGNALS: Faced with conflicting signs, biotech executives are left sorting out how to plan for growth

Aug 05, 2022

By Rowan Walrath

Originally published on August 4, 2022 in the Boston Business Journal.

For years, the life sciences industry has been a major driver of job growth in Massachusetts.

The sector employed more than 106,000 people at the end of 2021, according to data cited by Kendalle Burlin O’Connell, the president and chief operating officer of the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council. That’s up 25% from 85,000 workers in 2020.

Burlin O’Connell and her colleagues expect that growth to continue. Last year, MassBio released a report projecting that 40,000 new life sciences jobs — research and development, manufacturing, and admin roles alike — would come to the Bay State by 2024.

Burlin O’Connell says that despite the crash at publicly traded biotechs, private investors have significant capital on hand. Locally, Third Rock Ventures, Atlas Venture and Arch Venture Partners have all raised billions of dollars this year, which will go toward dozens of early- and growth-stage biotech companies.

“For us, the most important element of ensuring that we have a sustainable ecosystem here is for those emerging biotechs to continue to receive funding,” Burlin O’Connell said. “Everything we’re seeing indicates that that will continue to happen.”

It’s not the worst time to get laid off.

According to a June report from MassBio, more than three-quarters of Massachusetts life sciences companies — 78% — are hiring in the next 12 months across all experience levels. And for companies that are in the fortunate position to be growing their headcount, layoffs provide talent pools of already-vetted scientists and other employees.

“We’re obviously seeing significant layoffs and closures. Although that’s a negative for the industry, there’s a silver lining, because those employees are going to fill open jobs immediately,” said Burlin O’Connell. “A lot of them have jobs lined up sometimes before they even leave the company.”

Read the full story in the Boston Business Journal.

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