PHILADELPHIA (May 13, 2020) – An independent study to analyze the current workforce landscape and assess the future talent needs of the Greater Philadelphia region’s cell and gene therapy and connected health sectors has found that this workforce is expected to grow between 35 percent to 94 percent in the next 10 years using mid-range growth estimates. The growth could be as much as 54 percent to 136 percent using high-range growth estimates.
With support from The Lenfest Foundation, three organizations – the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia’s regional CEO Council for Growth, the University City Science Center, and University City District’s West Philadelphia Skills Initiative – embarked on the research project, titled the “Cell and Gene Therapy and Connected Health Workforce Analysis,” to ensure the region is well positioned to proactively address workforce needs as the industries scale. Philadelphia-based Econsult Solutions, Inc. (ESI), an economic consulting firm, was engaged to conduct the survey, with significant input from an Advisory Board of 20 leaders from industry, academia and the healthcare sectors.
According to the study, in 2019, there were approximately 4,900 employees working in the Greater Philadelphia region at cell and gene therapy companies, CMOS, biopharma companies, research organizations or research hospitals in the cell and gene therapy fields, and more than 700 professionals with skills in connected health, digital health, telehealth or mobile health. The projected increases mean that in 10 years the Greater Philadelphia region will see 6,558 to 9,396 total cell and gene therapy sector jobs (using mid-range projections). Using high-range growth projections, the region’s total number of employees in the cell and gene therapy field could be 7,440 to 11,274 total jobs.
“The objective of the study was to characterize the current landscape, assess growth scenarios and project future talent needs for these two particularly dynamic industry subsectors,” said Saul Behar, the Science Center’s senior vice president for advancement & strategic initiatives. “The findings confirm our region’s strength as a leader in the research and development that will fuel the subsectors’ continued growth; our potential to lead in the creation and expansion of companies that will commercialize these technologies and bring new products to market; and our opportunity to help recruit and train a workforce for these companies that reflects and leverages our rich diversity.”
Though the study was completed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic (the report reflects 2019 data, with projections modeled in February 2020) and does not take into account its effects, the collaborators assert that the essence of the findings remains.
“While it is too early to know all the health, economic and fiscal impacts that the pandemic has created, we know those impacts will likely fuel innovation and accelerate the exploration for answers to the world’s health challenges,” said Claire Marrazzo Greenwood, executive director, CEO Council for Growth. “The search for new cures, therapies and treatments, as well as the role of data analytics, and the importance of connected health are top of mind and will continue to be a core strength of and competitive advantage for our region.”
Surveys, interviews and focus groups with academic researchers, industry and human resources experts, and workforce development organizations informed the report, helping to develop potential growth scenarios. Secondary sources such as LinkedIn Talent Insights and Burning Glass Labor Insights helped size the current labor pool and employer demand in the Greater Philadelphia area. ESI also looked at other regions to determine labor market supply and demand. Input from the industry, academia and healthcare sector leaders helped shape future scenarios upon which ESI developed estimates of future employment growth.
Looking ahead, the collaborators worked with the research team and the Advisory Board to identify the two most promising growth scenarios: the “Leading R&D Hub” scenario, in which the region becomes a growth center for research and development; and the “Commercialization & Manufacturing Hub” scenario, in which the region becomes a capital for R&D, commercialization, and therapy production. In the Leading R&D Hub scenario, the mid-range projection yields the 35 percent growth in employment over the next 10 years noted above, with a high-range estimate of 54 percent growth and a low projection anticipating a 16 percent growth. In the Commercialization & Manufacturing Hub scenario, the mid-range prediction yields a 94 percent growth in employment over the next 10 years, with a high-range estimate of 136 percent growth and a low projection anticipating a 56 percent growth.
In terms of jobs, the Leading R&D Hub scenario, using the mid-range growth projection, anticipates the total number of employees in cell and gene therapy in 10 years at 6,558 jobs, up from 4,900 in 2019. The low-end projection anticipates 5,675 jobs and the high-range projection predicts 7,440 jobs. For the Commercialization & Manufacturing Hub scenario, using the mid-range growth projection, the study anticipates the total number of employees in cell and gene therapy in 10 years at 9,396 employees. The low-end projection anticipates 7,608 jobs and the high-range projection predicts 11,274 jobs.
“These jobs are not just for PhDs and post-doctoral research scientists,” said Sarah Steltz, executive director, University City District’s West Philadelphia Skills Initiative. “They also include professionals in marketing, business administration, information technology and manufacturing. There will be opportunities for those with associate’s and bachelor’s degrees, too.”
Other key takeaways from the study are:
- Cell and gene therapy and connected health startup growth in Greater Philadelphia is one of the primary drivers of the rapid development and maturation of the region’s innovation ecosystem.
- To attract talented workers, startups must be able to explain their distinct value proposition offered by working in an emerging, fast-growing industry.
- The Greater Philadelphia region’s pharmaceutical companies are an exceptional source of resources, talent and knowledge, but those with a pharma background still need some level of training to fully prepare for these positions.
- Roles such as manufacturing technicians, particularly within CMOs, may increase in demand as technological innovations allow for growth in therapy manufacturing.
- A positive feedback loop is beginning to establish itself in the Greater Philadelphia region around the cell and gene therapy workforce with firm growth leading to more talent coming from outside the region, due to more assurance of multiple opportunities.
- As firms grow, there will be more opportunities for a diverse workforce from multiple education and skill levels. In addition to those with scientific research backgrounds, firms will require workers with backgrounds in finance, information technology, legal services, human resources and general operations.
- Data science and data analytics are fields with significant potential for growth in the cell and gene therapy and connected health industries.
“As the next step, now that we have the data to understand the potential future talent needs, we will extend the efforts of the advisory group to move toward implementation of the industry-driven recommendations so that we can effectively support the growth of the region’s cell and gene therapy and connected health industries,” Greenwood said.
About Greater Philadelphia’s 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.
About the Science Center
Located in the heart of uCity Square, the Science Center is a mission-driven nonprofit that commercializes promising technology, cultivates talent and convenes people to inspire action. For over 50 years, the Science Center has supported startups, research, and economic development across the emerging technology sectors. As a result, Science Center-supported companies account for one out of every 100 jobs in the Greater Philadelphia region and drive $13 billion in economic activity in the region annually. By providing the right help at the right time, the Science Center is turning bright ideas into businesses and nurturing a workforce to support our 21st century economy. Visit www.sciencecenter.org or contact Kristen Fitch at 215-966-6156 to learn more.
About the West Philadelphia Skills Initiative
The West Philadelphia Skills Initiative (WPSI), a workforce development program of University City District, connects Philadelphians seeking opportunities with employers seeking talent. WPSI works closely with its employer partners to understand their talent challenges and aspirations. WPSI recruits, assesses, selects, trains and places residents in career-ladder jobs that offer stability and opportunities for advancement. For more information, visit www.universitycity.org/wpsi.