The Big4Bio Philadelphia 2020 Year in Review included a look forward to what we can expect in cell and gene therapy in 2021. The outlook was written by the CEO Council and a lightly edited version is reprinted here with permission of Big4Bio. You can access the full report on the Big4Bio website.

The critically important work of the life sciences industry globally has been front and center as health care providers, researchers, manufacturers, and distributors collaborate to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. Among the contributions from those in the Greater Philadelphia region’s life sciences cluster is extensive knowledge from decades of research and discovery, including in the areas of coronaviruses, vaccine development, and messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA), among others. The pace of research accelerated in 2020 and that will no doubt continue in the coming year. Also, the advances in the technology and education that enable telehealth allowed regional providers to rapidly expand their reach and capabilities in unprecedented ways, yielding novel benefits in quality and improving accessibility to care. Telemedicine is here to stay and is a trend to watch in 2021.

Investment in the life sciences skyrocketed last year and there are currently no signs that it will level off before the third quarter. Greater Philadelphia continues to attract its share of private capital, much of which can be expected to flow into healthcare IT, oncology, and rare disease-focused firms, all of which have performed well in recent years. Investor interest in the cell and gene therapy (CGT) subsector is a more recent phenomenon, and in this arena the Philadelphia region stands out. With its promise of helping to manage and sometimes even cure previously untreatable conditions, CGT is among the most exciting and promising subsectors of the life sciences and one in which Greater Philadelphia has long been an R&D leader.

The strong and growing capacity to attract investment is strengthening the region’s reputation as a global epicenter for these fields, encouraging company starts and fueling growth of existing firms. Greater Philadelphia is now home to 36 cell and gene therapy research and development companies, as well as numerous supporting firms specializing or expanding to support precision medicine. 2021 can be expected to bring additional players onto the scene.

Accompanying the growing number of life sciences firms in the region is a commensurate need for the specialized land, building, and wet labs they require. Numerous new real estate development projects are currently in the planning stages or underway both within the city limits and in surrounding communities. Progress on these will continue and new ones may well be announced.

The Greater Philadelphia region will undoubtedly be placing an emphasis on talent attraction and training. The region’s life sciences leaders in business, academia, and government recognize that strong sector growth requires a steady stream of talent and they have made clear that they intend that growth to be inclusive of a broad cross section of the population. One 2020 study projected workforce growth for the cell and gene therapy subsector alone to be between 35 percent and 94 percent in the next 10 years, using mid-range growth estimates.

Watch for announcements of new training centers, academic programs, and talent attraction initiatives in 2021 to continue as the industry reacts to the great potential for job growth.

As pandemic response and recovery continue to be a priority in 2021, so will prioritizing the very necessary work of addressing health care disparities and social determinants of health. The Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia and the CEO Council for Growth will continue to support these efforts through Recharge and Recover PHL and the Cell & Gene Therapy and Connected Health Initiative.