strong scientific and business infrastructure and easy access to capital, growing numbers of early-stage biotechs are choosing to base their operations in New York and list on the New York Stock Exchange.
The state, the governor and New York City are now committed to the development of the biotech ecosystem
New York boasts 60 percent of national or global Big Pharma headquarters, more than 75,000 direct biotechnology industry jobs, more life science PhD graduates than any other region in the US, over 25 percent of all clinical trials in the US and the world’s largest concentration of academic medical centres. With a host of consular offices in the city allowing international firms to easily start their US operations from New York and a diverse population making the city an excellent location for conducting clinical trials, the New York area has all the ingredients to be a biotech hotspot.
However, only in the last half-decade or so has there been a push to attract greater numbers of early-stage biotech companies to the city to rival the USA’s more established biotech hubs of Boston, San Francisco and San Diego
As Jennifer Hawks Bland, CEO of NewYorkBIO, the premier trade association for the life sciences in New York State, recently told PharmaBoardroom, “The state, the governor and New York City are now committed to the development of the biotech ecosystem. Between the governor’s and mayor’s initiatives, there has been over USD one billion of investment and incentives to the life sciences industry here.”
One of New York’s flagship projects in this field has been the development of the Alexandria Center for Life Science, a 728,000 rentable square feet urban campus with two mixed-use office/laboratory buildings. Hawks Bland points out that the Center “represents a partnership between city, state and developers to create space.” She continues, “incubators have increased the success of early-stage biotech companies. People that love Cambridge, MA because of the density of biotech there have, in the past, felt that New York was too big and spread out.”
And Alexandria is not a lone example. Hawks Bland declares that “we are now moving towards having multiple clusters here in New York. One thing we heard over and over is that historically there was no space for start-up companies here. That has changed significantly over the last three to five years. Six different start-up incubators have opened here in that time period, along with a greater number of partnerships. For example, The Empire Discovery Institute, a partnership between the University of Buffalo, the University of Rochester Medical Center and Roswell Park Cancer Center was recently been set up to accelerate the discoveries from those three institutions”
One key differentiator that New York possesses above Boston and California is its access to capital markets, notably the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), by far the world’s largest by market capitalization of its listed companies. Hawks Bland claims that, “we have the unique ability and responsibility, because of our location in New York, to connect companies with the financial markets and to work with them. This is where they are able to raise capital.” NewYorkBIO has already established a partnership with the NYSE to showcase pre-IPO biotechs in the city to the financial community.
Venture capital is also becoming increasingly important within New York’s biotech scene. Hawks Bland adds that, “We are starting to see more venture firms willing to come in. In contrast to Boston and San Francisco, biotechs in New York often spring out of academic medical institutions, rather than from scientists that do not want to work for large companies. New York biotechs are often partnerships between the founding scientists and a venture firm.”
Biotechs in New York can lean on the large presence that Big Pharma has in the city and surrounds. Hawks Bland states that companies such as Pfizer, J&J, Merck, Novartis, and Celgene, all of which have their headquarters in New York or New Jersey, “are interested in in-licensing deals or partnerships, particularly with early-stage companies that are ready to go to market, but do not have a marketing apparatus or sales force, for example.”
She continues, “We are seeing an increasing number of companies focused on rare diseases. These companies may personally know all of their patients in the US because the disease is so rare that it only affects 3,000 people here. However, they may need to partner with a multinational company in order to distribute their drugs internationally.”
Open for Business
Hawks Bland is defiant on the strength of New York’s value proposition for biotech companies. She asserts, “We are definitively open for business. Our real estate is equally as expensive, if not less than that of Cambridge, you have access to VC money as well as the capital markets, and increased opportunities within the community we are building. In baseball terms, we are in the third of nine innings, so we are not saturated and not yet fully grown. However, we are making great strides to provide the type of community that these companies, particularly those coming in from outside, need to thrive.”