Something special is brewing in New York City.
The city where people come from all over to test their ideas, take risks, start new lives, and make their dreams a reality is today a powerhouse of life sciences, one of the nation’s fastest-growing innovation sectors.
Founders, academics, investors, and researchers are finding everything at their fingertips in NYC — access to talent, space, resources, knowledge, and key thought leaders.
Amy Schulman, managing partner at Polaris Partners — an investment firm backing healthcare and biotech companies — argues that New York has a unique set of advantages for life sciences. “Academic medical institutions here are so strong that the translational opportunities are profound,” she says. “And when you couple that with New York’s talent and diversity, it’s impossible to ignore.”
And the growth is real. The New York metro area is now home to 5,100 life sciences companies — 30 percent more than Boston. It also has nearly 150,000 jobs in life sciences: 14,000 more than San Francisco, the second-largest market for jobs in the sector.
But what’s driving the city’s life sciences boom? Experts point to a few key factors that give New York an edge — a sustained commitment to public investment and public-private partnerships, physical infrastructure, and world-class talent.
A public commitment
A $1+ billion public investment in life sciences by the City of New York signaled to the world that NYC had arrived as a global leader in the life sciences industry.
LifeSci NYC will invest $450 million to spur new research, $600 million to construct new labs and incubator spaces, and $20 million to build a pipeline of diverse talent. The investment aims to create 40,000 jobs, unlock 10 million square feet of wet- and dry-lab space, and spur the launch of 1,000 new companies.
The public commitment doubles down on the city’s existing competitive advantages and catalyzes new rounds of private investment and job growth. “As companies specializing in biotechnology, diagnostics, therapeutics, digital health, and more choose the City as their preferred location, we see New York City as the home to future innovative breakthroughs that will support better health for all,” said Claire Pomeroy, President at the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation.
Leveraging physical space
Increasing the available physical space — offices, wetlabs, incubators, accelerators, and more — has been a key element of the City’s strategy to establish New York as the global center of the life sciences industry.
Life sciences already has a big footprint in NYC — and it’s only getting bigger. From Kips Bay and the West Side in Manhattan to Long Island City in Queens and Morris Park up in the Bronx, New York’s life sciences community is defined by neighborhood-based clusters of incubators, accelerators, commercial life sciences startups, nonprofits, and academic and medical research institutions that cross-pollinate, pool resources, generate ideas, and grow together.
And founders are seeing the benefits of tapping into this hive of connection and opportunity.
Ellen Jorgensen, co-founder of Aanika Biosciences, sees the new investment as creating a self-sustaining movement.
“Not long ago, there was no infrastructure that would allow two people in the space to come together. It’s a sign of the times that we are now part of this movement that is bringing entrepreneurial biotech into the city. It’s always irked me that there was nowhere for graduates to go, given our wonderful ecosystem of academic institutions. Now there is.”
Ellen Jorgensen, co-founder of Aanika Biosciences
An unmatched talent pool
But it’s not just investment dollars and square feet that set New York apart — it’s people.
“The diversity of talent in the NYC area has been a major factor in our success, enabling us to recruit top talent from an array of fields such as microscopy, drug development, regulatory, clinical trials, and beyond,” said Server Ertem, PhD, CEO of Sanavia Oncology.
New York’s world-class universities and research centers make the city a magnet for life sciences jobs, and the growth of the life sciences ecosystem helps to root graduates in the five boroughs. There’s been an 89 percent growth in life sciences jobs since 2001, and initiatives like the LifeSci NYC Internship Program contribute to that growth — to date, the program has placed 600 interns at 160 life sciences companies across the city.
Sue Rosenthal, senior vice president of life sciences and healthcare at New York City Economic Development Corporation, urges that the time invest and launch in NYC is now. “In NYC, the stage is set — and set like no other city — for life sciences companies of all sizes to thrive,” said Rosenthal. “We’re here to help you be a part of it.”
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