The 5 best spots in the United States to start a life science company

 

Easier recruitment. Better funding. Pooling of expertise and resources. There are plenty of reasons to look to the various clusters of vibrant life science activity across the United States as you choose a launchpad for your new life science company.

Where you set up shop could determine the fate of your business. 

We've assembled a list of the 5 best areas in the US for you to consider.

 

 

1. Boston, MA

 

JLL's recent report found that the Greater Boston/Cambridge area boasts the highest concentrated life science talent pool in the country and absorbs 10% of National Institute of Health (NIH) funding by itself.

Cambridge's Kendall Square was once crowned the 'most innovative square mile on the planet' for the sheer volume and quality of entrepreneurial start-ups born in its confines, and the area is particularly strong in cell and gene therapy.

With Harvard and MIT close by, and strong presence from industry giants Pfizer and Thermo Fisher Scientific (headquartered in nearby Waltham), it's little wonder this corner of Massachusetts continues to rank so highly as a life science hotspot.

 

2. Raleigh/Durham, NC

 

The Research Triangle, North America's largest technology research and science park, sits between the three North Carolina universities of Chapel Hill, Duke and North Carolina State.

North Carolina holds over 11 million square feet of laboratory space and over 700 life science businesses, with the vast majority perched within the Triangle.

Access to STEM talent may not be as strong as Boston, but there are still over 55,000 people working in life science companies within the Triangle area, while operating costs may be less competitive than in the North-East.

 

3. San Francisco/San Diego, CA

 

They may be 500 miles apart, but the two Californian behemoths of life science usually sit neck-and-neck in industry evaluations every year.

 Less than 5% of San Franciscan laboratories sit idle and San Diego's life science leasing activity doubled (even in the midst of COVID-19) from 2020-21, testament to the vibrancy of the market in both cities.

High wages, strong VC attention and a robust academic network all combine to make south-central California an attractive proposition for life science businesses. Last year, San Francisco alone attracted $6.3 billion of VC funding - the second-highest amount of any American market. The 'birthplace of biotech' also continues to boast the largest biotech cluster on the planet, making this area particularly attractive if you're eyeing this sector.

 

4. Seattle, WA

 

The Pacific Northwest usually conjures images of tech, retail and food/drink presence, with Microsoft, Amazon and Starbucks all headquartered in and around Seattle.

Yet the crucial metric of employment acceleration, showcasing how life science employment opportunities evolve across time, places the Seattle-Tacoma area top in the United States with a 3.1% boost between 2010-2015 and 2015-2020.

This area is therefore the most 'up and coming' life science cluster, with some pre-existing biotech presence gradually being augmented and built on. Washington's strong tech networks are playing into life science hands here, as work done outside the industry in areas like cloud computing and artificial intelligence cross-pollinate into scientific applications and digital health initiatives.

With 600,000 square feet added from 3 major life science building projects in the past 3 years, Seattle is making way for its increasing influx of life science talent.

 

5.  Washington, DC

 

The other Washington often gets overlooked as a potential life science company home.

But besides its handy east coast location, including its proximity to the Baltimore medical powerhouse of Johns Hopkins, the 'I-270 Corridor' and 'DNA Alley', the national capital's slew of funding from government agencies makes it a fertile spot for long-term life science growth.

DARPA funding and the NIH's focus on translational medicine have both made themselves felt in Washington. The NIH itself is based in nearby Maryland, as are the FDA and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. 

COVID-19 has triggered a kneejerk response too, with more money flowing into public health research and biotech development activity than pre-pandemic.

Taking everything together, the future looks bright for Washington as a powerhouse of life science innovation.

 

More reading

 

Looking to start a life science business?

Try our guide to starting a medical device company, or our 6 strategies for securing biotech funding.