Will Massachusetts Continue to Attract Biotech Companies?

shutterstock_128456363With Massachusetts serving as the main hub for the biotech industry, many pharmaceutical companies are picking up shop and heading to The Bay State. In doing so, these companies hope to take full advantage of the research and knowledge that is flowing from the state’s biotech startups and academic labs. Some companies, however, are choosing to stay put, claiming they are better off staying where they are at. This comes as a bit of a blow for those who were hopeful that more companies would be looking for real estate in Massachusetts while also bringing more jobs into the state.

According to a recent article in the Boston Globe, a couple of major companies have specifically said they will not be moving to Massachusetts any time soon. James Sabry, who is the senior vice president for partnering at Genentech, recently said his company is “not going to stick an R&D center in Boston.” George S. Golumbeski, who is the senior vice president of business development at Celgene Corp has publicly stated that while his company has established partnerships with 11 companies in Massachusetts, he is not interested in moving to Boston. He has, however, acknowledged that his company is likely to engage in more collaborations with Boston-area companies.

Of course, several other companies have taken a different approach. Pharmaceutical companies such as Sanofi SA, Novartis AG, AstraZenca PLC and Shire PLC have established research labs in or around Boston. Yet, some executives in the industry claim that moving to Boston is not necessary. In addition, while Boston has more startups, San Francisco has more venture capital, thereby making San Francisco the more attractive option for some companies. Furthermore, while many Big Pharma companies based out of Europe prefer Boston because it is a shorter plane flight than California, the growing Asian biosciences industry will prefer California for the same reason.

Massachusetts is undoubtedly facing an uphill battle against the reputation that Silicon Valley has earned throughout the years. Not only is the area well-established within the industry, but it also has a reputation for having a friendly atmosphere for entrepreneurs. Nonetheless, many life sciences companies have chosen to move their research operations to Massachusetts due to the area’s proximity to entrepreneurs and top researchers. In 2014, for example, Baxter International and GE Healthcare announced that they were planning to establish sites in Massachusetts. Shire also started the process of consolidating its US operations in the Boston area.

For these companies, being close to other research labs is an important part of the drug discovery process. While telecommunication may be an effective tool for software companies, the process of discovery is different within the biological sciences. By working closely together and collaborating, researchers are able to expedite the time it takes to make new discoveries. For this reason, many executives working within the field do see Boston as the worldwide epicenter for biotech. Therefore, while some companies may be deciding to stay put for now, the number of companies moving to Boston and setting up facilities in Boston is likely to continue into the future.

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