PHILADELPHIA (December 19, 2019) – The Greater Philadelphia region’s health care and life sciences community has much to celebrate as 2019 concludes. From designation as a center of innovative excellence in the life sciences, to another groundbreaking gene therapy FDA approval and major funding victories, this year’s list of achievements makes clear that Greater Philadelphia is a leading global hub for talent, research and results in cell and gene therapy, gene editing and connected health.
“Now is truly Greater Philadelphia’s moment. Groundbreaking discoveries made here are being developed within our region’s robust and growing ecosystem consisting of world-class research laboratories, start-ups and health care technology companies,” said Daniel J. Hilferty, CEO of Independence Health Group, and Chair of the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia. “We celebrate the countless victories and milestone moments from 2019 and look forward to the continued growth of our region as a leader in health care and the life sciences.”
Launching the Cell and Gene Therapy & Connected Health Initiative
In 2019, the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia, through its CEO Council for Growth, formally launched an effort to build awareness and accelerate growth for the Greater Philadelphia region’s health care and life sciences economy. The collaborative effort targets two subsectors in which this geography has exceptional existing assets and strengths: 1) cell therapy, gene therapy, and gene editing; and 2) connected health. Known as the Cell & Gene Therapy and Connected Health Initiative, the work focused during this first year on developing shared messaging to support regional business attraction efforts, conducting assessments of talent and critical infrastructure needs, and identifying opportunities to support the entrepreneur community.
The multi-year initiative is supported by 11 partner companies, institutions and universities in the Greater Philadelphia region and will continue to build upon this momentum in 2020 and beyond.
Discovery Starts Here – Greater Philadelphia Hosts BIO 2019
From June 3 to June 6, Greater Philadelphia welcomed more than 17,000 national and international global biotech and pharma leaders attending the 2019 BIO International Convention. The event was held at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, where the life sciences community gathered for education and networking sessions, and more than 48,000 business-to-business partnering meetings.
This convention provided the CEO Council and a regional host committee – consisting of academic, business and civic organizations from the 11-county region of northern Delaware, southern New Jersey, and southeastern Pennsylvania – an unparalleled opportunity to showcase the region’s assets through the Greater Philadelphia Innovation Showcase at the Comcast Technology Center. Talks from regional cell and gene therapy company executives and researchers, as well as demonstrations of innovative technologies being developed in Greater Philadelphia, highlighted for more than 250 attendees how the cell and gene therapy, gene editing, and connected health industries are thriving here.
Championing Another Groundbreaking FDA Approval
Greater Philadelphia has already proven its place as the home of cell and gene therapy as evidenced by multiple milestone FDA approvals in the space. Based on science originating from Greater Philadelphia institutions, the FDA previously approved the world’s first gene therapy (Luxturna® by Spark Therapeutics for congenital blindness in December 2017) and the first FDA-approved cell therapy (Kymriah® by Novartis Pharmaceuticals for advanced leukemia, August 2017).
In May an additional treatment with research origins in Greater Philadelphia received FDA approval. Zolgensma®, a gene therapy developed by Novartis for children under two with spinal muscular atrophy, is based on a delivery vehicle discovered by James M. Wilson, MD, PhD and his team at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.
Major Funding Victories, Successful Mergers and Exits Fuel Growth
Many of the region’s innovative cell and gene therapy and connected health companies successfully raised significant capital or attained an exit in 2019. Just a few notable examples include:
In January, Cabaletta Bio Inc., a Penn Medicine spinout cell therapy company targeting autoimmune disease, raised $50 million in a Series B financing round. Later in the year, Cabaletta (NASDAQ: CABA) successfully went public, raising $74.8 million in an initial public offering, becoming the region’s first life sciences IPO of 2019.
Also in January, Center City-based cell therapy company Century Therapeutics launched with $250 million in financing commitments. In connected health, Philadelphia-based HealthVerity, a data-focused digital health group, raised $25 million in a Series C round in April, bringing its total venture capital funding to $42.3 million.
In February, Roche announced its intent to acquire Spark Therapeutics for $4.3 billion. That deal was finalized earlier this week following the receipt of regulatory approval from all government authorities required by the merger agreement. In July, Philadelphia-based health care payments tech firm InstaMed announced that it was acquired by J.P. Morgan Chase in a deal worth a reported $500 million.
In September, Malvern, PA-based Ocugen completed a reverse merger with the publicly traded Histogenics Corporation and will remain in Malvern to develop gene therapies for rare eye diseases.
A Region of Discovery, with Room to Grow
A number of cell and gene therapy companies elected to expand in the Greater Philadelphia region with new research centers, labs and/or manufacturing facilities. These companies join the more than 50+ cell and gene therapy and connected health companies already based in the region.
In February, Amicus Therapeutics announced plans to open a 75,000-square-foot Center of Excellence in Cell & Gene Therapy in uCity Square. A few short months later, in Q2, California-based Iovance Biotherapeutics announced plans to build a 136,000-square-foot, $75 million manufacturing facility in Philadelphia, joining other innovative biotech companies at the Navy Yard. Anpac Bio, another California-based biotech company, also selected Greater Philadelphia as their next U.S. home, announcing its second clinical laboratory site and new U.S. corporate headquarters at Spring House Innovation Park. Anpac Bio cited the region’s rich life sciences ecosystem and supportive start-up environment as key factors in the decision – a testament to Greater Philadelphia’s growing reputation as the hub of innovation in cell and gene therapy.
Room for growth remains a regional asset. The region has more than 11 million square feet of affordable life sciences space and average office rental rates of $26.93 per square foot versus $80.97 per square foot for San Francisco, $77.31 for NYC, and $37.99 for Boston. And plans are well underway for bringing additional space to the market, both within the city limits and surrounding suburbs. Among these projects are uCity Square, University Place, The Discovery Labs, and Spring House Innovation Center, to name just a few.
As 2019 concludes with a list of major achievements, the Greater Philadelphia region is committed to its continued momentum in cell and gene therapy discoveries and connected health advancements in 2020.
About the Cell & Gene Therapy and Connected Health Initiative: The Chamber, through its CEO Council for Growth, along with collaborating institutions, organizations and companies, has launched a multi-year initiative to leverage and promote Greater Philadelphia’s cell and gene therapy, gene editing, and connected health sectors. The objective of the initiative is to strengthen the region’s innovation economy through efforts including shared storytelling that builds awareness of the region’s assets, providing resources to start-up and scaling companies, assessing the talent needs of the sectors, and supporting the development of critical infrastructure for the sector’s growth. The initiative is supported by 11 partner companies, institutions and universities in the Greater Philadelphia region. For more information, visit www.ceocouncilforgrowth.com.