Though it may be small, the state of Massachusetts continues to lead the U.S. in biotechnology research and development jobs, with 26,807 such positions. And companies in the state garnered almost a quarter of all venture capital flowing into the sector nationally, an all-time high share for Massachusetts. And the pace of employment growth in the overall biopharma industry is second only to much larger California.
These are some of the stats to come out of the recently published Biotechnology Industry Snapshot 2011 from the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council (MassBio), a nonprofit trade group that uses the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Quarterly Census of Employment & Wage data to capture the state of the local industry.
Peter Abair, MassBio’s director of economic development, said Massachusetts, with its heavy concentration of biotech and pharmaceutical companies as well as service providers that cater to the industry, is often compared to California, which has similar clusters in San Diego and Silicon Valley. “We are a small state and have a much smaller population, but we’re the second-biggest cluster in the country and disproportionately so,” he said proudly.
MassBio’s industry snapshot numbers highlighted the fact that while many other industries saw a drop in growth during the economic downturn of late 2008 and 2009, the drug-development sector in Massachusetts did not.
“2009 was a devastating year across the country, but the biopharm industry in Massachusetts still saw growth of 1%,” said Abair. “And in 2010, we grew jobs by 3.9%. That’s a pretty good response to a down economy.”
Between the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, there are 48,657 jobs in Massachusetts, according to the report. But while biotech jobs grew in the state in 2010, pharmaceutical jobs did not. Massachusetts shed pharmaceutical manufacturing jobs along with other states that have a high concentration of such jobs.
Also of note in MassBio’s new statistics: Massachusetts-based companies accounted for about 10% of the U.S. drug development pipeline and 5% of the global pipeline. “That’s the biggest share we’ve seen going back to 2000,” said Abair.
In terms of venture capital for biotech, he said, 2007 was the “high-water mark,” followed by a drop off in 2008 and an even bigger drop off in 2009. Then in 2010, matters improved greatly. Companies in the state brought in $850 million in venture funding, and in the the first two quarters of 2011 a combined $475 million came in. “We’re in an upswing, it seems, on this roller coaster,” said Abair.
The percentage of investments at the startup and seed stages was higher in 2010 than in 2006 or 2002, the other years when such statistics were gathered. At the same time, Massachusetts-based companies received some huge financing rounds, said Abair, pointing to Waltham-based, oncology-focused biotech firm Tesaro, which landed a whopping $101 million series B round in June.
New this year to the MassBio snapshot, said Abair, is a tally of how many drug candidates are making it from one phase of development to the next. “We always looked at the aggregate numbers, but we didn’t look at the progress of the compounds through the different clinical stages,” he said. “You know when you have the good news of a new drug approval, but you don’t generally know what’s in the pipeline and how it’s coming along. Now, we’re watching how many are advancing.”
The snapshot showed that 897 investigational drug products were in development in Massachusetts, 40% of which were focused on cancer, and that 217 advanced from one stage to another between May 2010 and April 2011, from entering pre-clinical trials to FDA approval. Additionally, 43 drug candidates were acquired by out-of-state companies, and 59 trials were terminated or the proposed drug was not approved.
Another interesting statistic from the report: The estimated average salary in the biopharma industry, $95,628, is 77% higher than the estimated average salary of $53,834 throughout other industries in Massachusetts.
Next up for MassBio, said Abair, is gathering metrics from other states and other regions of the world, and comparing them with Massachusetts’ productivity in the biopharma sector.