The Greater Philadelphia region’s reputation as a center for the cell and gene therapy industry grew in 2020 as breakthrough research from industry academia pioneers is increasingly complemented by strong capital investment and real estate projects meeting the specialized land, building, and lab development needs of start-up, scaling and relocating companies.
According to research from biopharma database company DealForma (as of December 9, 2020), the Greater Philadelphia region saw 49 life sciences investment deals in 2020, valued at more than $12 billion, including six in the cell and gene therapy space totaling $4.5 billion. Among the cell and gene therapy investment deals are Passage Bio’s $216 million IPO, announced February 27; Imvax’s $112 million Series C financing, announced July 16; Amicus Therapeutics’ $400 million loan, announced July 17; and the $1.8 billion in common stock and convertible notes issued by Radnor-based Avantor, Inc.
The investment growth in cell and gene therapy in the Greater Philadelphia region is reflective of the sectors’ growth globally. A report from the Alliance for Regenerative Medicine (ARM), titled “Innovation in the Time of COVID-19: ARM Global Regenerative Medicine & Advanced Therapy Sector Report” stated, “Despite the immense economic challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, investors remain bullish on the potential of cell and gene therapies – and the sector as a whole is on track for a record-breaking year.”
The opportunity presented by this sector is reflected in the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia’s work on both the region’s Recharge and Recovery Initiative and the Cell & Gene Therapy and Connected Health Initiative. According to Claire Greenwood, executive director of the Chamber’s regional CEO Council for Growth, the Cell & Gene Therapy and Connected Health Initiative, founded in 2019 with the support of 11 partner organizations, will continue its efforts in 2021, focusing on three areas: (1) assisting start-up, scaling and relocating companies by aiding in the development of critical infrastructure that ensures the smooth transition from concepts to products; (2) talent assessment, attraction, and training to address workforce needs as the industry scales; and (3) building an ecosystem that supports growing and retaining companies, innovators, and expertise in the region. Already, the region is home to 36 cell and gene therapy research and development companies.
Real Estate Development
The current and projected growth is driving real estate development, including new projects announced for University City, the Philadelphia Navy Yard, and King of Prussia, Pa.
In its 2020 Outlook, JLL noted the following developments in University City:
- One uCity Square – In Q4 2019, Ventas and Wexford Science & Technology broke ground on a 390,000-square-foot lab and office development. Cambridge Innovation Center, Integral Molecular, and Century Therapeutics signed long-term leases.
- 3535 Market Street – Limelight Bio moved into 25,000 square feet.
- One Commerce Square – Passage Bio increased its footprint by 29,000 square feet.
At the Navy Yard, JLL reported:
- 300 Rouse Boulevard – Iovance’s East Coast headquarters, 136,000 square feet
- 400 Rouse Boulevard – A 95,000-square-foot building for WuXi AppTec, its fourth building at the Navy Yard
- 2500 League Island Boulevard – a 110,000-square-foot life sciences building proposed by Gattuso Development Partners
The Navy Yard announced the identification of 109 acres for new development, and the selection in June of Ensemble Development & Mosaic Development Partners as developer. A master development plan over the next 10+ years focused on providing spaces for life sciences and other commercial projects.
In January, The Discovery Labs and Deerfield Management Company formed The Center for Breakthrough Medicines, a Contract Development and Manufacturing Organization which will occupy 680,000 square feet of The Discovery Labs biotech, healthcare and life sciences campus in King of Prussia, Pa., a suburb of Philadelphia.
In October, WuXi Biologics announced the opening of a process development and testing lab in King of Prussia, partnering with The Discovery Labs and Integrated Project Services to lease and renovate the 33,000-square-foot facility.
“The mission of the Greater Philadelphia region’s Cell & Gene Therapy and Connected Health Initiative is now more important than ever as we work to rebound from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic,” said Greenwood.
“The capital investment, real estate development, and job growth predictions are strong indicators of the momentum in the cell and gene therapy sector in Greater Philadelphia,” she added. “The region’s leading role in these fields will only grow as news of our talented workforce, R&D successes, company formation, and capital attraction spreads.”
Read more about breakthrough research, investment, real estate development, and job growth predictions that are driving the region’s reputation as a cell and gene therapy hub.