Seattle is the top emerging life sciences hub in the U.S., according to a recent report from commercial real estate firm CBRE. That’s welcome news for an industry that has faced its share of ups and downs in the past decade.
“This is a cluster that is over 20 years old and it’s really maturing in a tremendous way,” said Leslie Alexandre, president and CEO of Life Science Washington, a trade group. “We have lots more companies than we did previously.”
CBRE published two separate rankings: top-ranked “leading life sciences markets,” and top “emerging life sciences clusters.”
Seattle won the top spot on the “emerging” list based on the following criteria:
- Job growth: Life science employment jumped 17.4 percent in Seattle from 2014 to 2017, versus 4.1 percent nationally. There are more than 900 open “life science” jobs on LinkedIn.
- New grads: The University of Washington graduated 1,252 biological and biomedical graduates in 2017.
- Funding: Seattle institutions landed nearly $800 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 2018, ranking eighth highest nationally.
- Real estate: Seattle stands to add more than 600,000 square feet of commercial real estate across three major life science building projects currently in the works.
“The growth is closely tied to educational institutions and the growing pool of strong talent in the region,” said Marcus Yamamoto, first vice president at CBRE. Another major factor is the ready availability of lab real estate compared with more saturated markets like Boston and San Francisco, which were the top two leading markets overall, Yamamoto said.
Several well-known institutions are based in the Seattle area, such as Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Allen Institute for Brain Science and the Institute for Systems Biology, along with startups including Adaptive Biotechnologies and Sana Biotechnology, launched recently by former executives from Juno Therapeutics, another Seattle company that was acquired by Celgene for $9 billion last year. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the UW also help bolster the growing local life sciences industry.
Going forward, Seattle stands to benefit as artificial intelligence and cloud computing play a larger role in both creating therapies and tracking outcomes, said Mike McSherry, CEO of Seattle-based digital health startup Xealth. “This plays into Seattle’s strengths,” he said.
Alexandre added: “We’re seeing a lot more digital health companies. There’s just tremendous convergence taking place.”
McSherry, who transitioned to the health business after an entrepreneurial career in tech, said health startups like Xealth — which just raised a $11 million investment round — benefit from the presence of Amazon and Microsoft, which draw talent and visitors from around the world.
Houston and Austin were ranked second and third among emerging life sciences markets. Across the U.S., venture capital funding grew 86 percent last year to $15.8 billion, and the country added 6 million square feet of lab space.