MassBio recently released its 2021 Industry Snapshot, which shows incredible growth across the life sciences industry and reveals many opportunities and challenges ahead. To learn more about the state of the industry and what impact these data could have in the coming years, we sat down with MassBio’s own Ben Bradford, Vice President of Membership and Economic Development. Here’s what he had to say.
To start off this discussion, what are your biggest takeaways from the report?
2020 was a record-breaking funding year for the industry. Much of this can be attributed to the renewed confidence in the industry, derived from its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. But, to see the record-paced funding continue into 2021 is incredible – in just the first quarter of the year, Massachusetts-headquartered companies have received $4.3 billion in venture capital funding, more than the entirety of the third-largest funding year on record.
Do you expect this record amount of funding and industry investment to continue?
Not every year will be a record-breaking year and there are significant headwinds ahead. As we saw with last year’s Industry Snapshot, severe drug pricing legislation both at the state and federal level led to a decline in investment for the industry, as we predicted it would. While investors are still bullish on the life sciences, the potential for serious drug pricing reform to be included in a congressional reconciliation package could have a detrimental impact. However, if we’ve learned anything from the pandemic, it is that science can make a real impact on human health and so I’m still optimistic about the future of funding.
How are these record-breaking investment amounts impacting the Massachusetts biopharma cluster?
The investments and funding that continue to pour into the industry are leading to incredible growth in the real estate pipeline to meet the demand of biopharma companies that are launching and scaling across Massachusetts. In the last year, Massachusetts added nearly 5 million square feet of lab space and it is projected that an additional 20 million square feet of lab and biomanufacturing space will be developed by 2024. This is a really exciting time for the industry, especially as developers are targeting areas outside of Cambridge and Boston to build out these new lab and biomanufacturing facilities.
With 20 million square feet of lab and biomanufacturing space projected to come online by 2024, what does this mean for the workforce?
This growth is creating amazing opportunities for Massachusetts residents and the economy at large. Currently, the average salary for biopharma employees is about $191,000 a year and the average salary for biomanufacturing employees, who often don’t need advanced degrees, is about $160,000. However, when taking into account the 20 million square feet of lab and biomanufacturing space expected to be developed in the coming years, it is possible that Massachusetts will need 40,000 net new employees by 2024, presenting a significant challenge to the sustained growth of the cluster.
Recruiting and retaining talent has already proven itself a challenge for Massachusetts biopharma companies. How are we, as an industry, going to find enough talent to fill the current and future workforce needs?
We need to look everywhere for the best and brightest talent, including seeking out a wide diversity of candidates for all roles and looking to neighboring states. It is also critical that we provide new pathways for students and adults to transition into the industry, such as through certification programs and apprenticeship programs like our sister organization, MassBioEd, has developed. Ultimately, the key to filling the talent gap is to ensure the next generation of talent is aware of the vast career opportunities the industry has to offer. To get there, we need to engage students, K-12, early and often.
Any final thoughts you’d like to share?
At the end of the day, this report shows that the record-paced investments, real estate growth, and company creation will lead to new therapies and cures for patients around the world. Massachusetts is the best place in the world for patients and the life sciences and at MassBio, we look forward to working with policymakers to devise and implement short- and long-term solutions to ensure Massachusetts sustains this stature for years to come.
To download the full report, visit: https://www.massbio.org/industry-snapshot/