Philadelphia is supposed to be a biotech hub. Two years ago, the city’s life sciences startups brought in more than $450 million; last year, they raised even more. A 2019 Philadelphia Magazine article proclaimed that “even when compared to Silicon Valley, Philadelphia has the most to offer,” and pointed out that more than 80% of leading life sciences companies have offices in the city.
But Philly’s growth appears to be slowing. Last November, the president of the Philadelphia Alliance for Capital and Technologies lamented that the city’s biotech companies were “punching below [their] weight” in terms of investment — and so far in 2020, the city’s biotechs have brought in just $317 million while the rest of the sector, even amid the pandemic, has raised record-breaking sums from venture capital firms.
It’s not a great sign, particularly since the amount of money raised from venture capitalists is often used as shorthand for an area’s vitality. But experts were quick to defend the Philadelphia scene. They said, instead, that the numbers looked bad because two high-rolling startups, Century Therapeutics and Passage Bio, didn’t raise money this year.
I have noticed similar stories about lesser known biotech clusters in some cities showing signs of what some folks think is a decline. From a national perspective its hard to quantify these claims. The fact is that biotech clsuters in San Diego, San Francisco and Boston have grown so large in the last 15 years they have become the first places the media and investors might look to as the centers of biotech development.
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