Boston Globe: Kendall Square is no longer the area’s only biotech hotspot

Jan 31, 2024

The following is an excerpt from a front page story in The Boston Globe on January 31, 2024.

Many have gravitated to Kendall Square partly because of its celebrated “bump factor,” the ease with which drug developers and financers can run into each other in the dense neighborhood. But that phenomenon has also created a kind of bubble of highly educated scientists and entrepreneurs seemingly removed from the rest of the state and all it has to offer.

“For a long time, when people thought about life sciences, they thought about Cambridge,” said Kendalle Burlin O’Connell, the MassBio chief executive. “Research and development is Cambridge’s sweet spot. But there are capabilities in the Merrimack Valley and in Worcester. Land is cheaper, and you can tap into a whole new workforce.”

Business leaders and state officials, bemoaning the industry’s geographic concentration, have stepped up efforts to broaden its reach, particularly in niches such as biomanufacturing that require more space and large numbers of production workers.

To help companies understand their options, MassBio has rated 90 communities as BioReady, certifying they’ve made the zoning changes and water and sewer upgrades required to accommodate biotechnology properties.

Outside of Cambridge, meanwhile, local officials greet the arrival of biotechs as a windfall.

“They’re coming into Watertown and finding things might be a little cheaper here,” said City Council president Mark Sideris, who noted that Alexandria Real Estate has plans to build three more life sciences buildings on the Arsenal on the Charles complex. “And there’s some benefits from that.”

If a Watertown company like Mariana Oncology hatches the next breakthrough drug, he said, “that would be a feather in our cap.”

Sideris said Watertown has been able to build two elementary schools, renovate a third, and demolish an old high school, all without an override boosting the limit on property tax increases, thanks to tax revenue generated by biotechs and other new companies.

“All of this growth has helped us to do that,” he said.

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