In a newly released study comparing 14 U.S. cell and gene therapy hubs in five key categories, the Philadelphia region ranks #2 among U.S. locations. Commissioned by the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia and researched by economic consulting firm Econsult Solutions, Inc. (ESI), the study compares cell and gene therapy hubs in research infrastructure, human capital, innovation output, commercial activity, and value proposition. The only region ranked higher overall than Philadelphia was Boston. New York and San Francisco were ranked #3 and #4, respectively.

“The Philadelphia region is increasingly attracting new and expanding cell and gene therapy companies because it checks all the boxes, but it’s the region’s research infrastructure as defined by NIH-funded cell and gene therapy research and its large number of research institutions that give it the edge,” said Claire Marrazzo Greenwood, Executive Director, CEO Council for Growth and Senior Vice President of Economic Competitiveness for the Chamber. “Combining our research infrastructure with a track record of innovation output including the first FDA approved cell and gene therapies make Philadelphia an excellent place to locate or to expand a cell and gene therapy business.”

 The comparative analysis included 14 U.S. cell and gene therapy hubs.  Each was rated in five categories regarded to be significant determinants in choosing a cell and gene therapy location.  Here are highlights from each category:

  1. Research Infrastructure: Greater Philadelphia is home to many top-tier institutions and research activity.

 “A concentration of research infrastructure is one of the most important resources in creating a biomedical research hub, primarily in the form of top-tier research universities, which serve as the magnet for human capital, research grants, and corporate partnerships.” – ESI

With four Tier 1 universities, 93 colleges and universities, and a concentration of world-renowned hospitals and research institutions, the Greater Philadelphia region ranked second among its peer group of 14 regions for cell and gene therapy. 

An additional factor that fuels cell and gene therapy discoveries is access to NIH funding. Greater Philadelphia has been awarded at least $1 billion in NIH funding in the last five years.  Within that $1 billion is $317.2 million in cell and gene therapy awards, catapulting Greater Philadelphia to the #1 spot.

  1. Human Capital: Greater Philadelphia boasts a high concentration of talent specific to cell and gene therapy work.

 “Concentrations of human capital have a force multiplier effect in that the more people you have, (1) the more you can produce, (2) the more intense the interactions and therefore innovations are produced, and (3) the more other people want to work with you.” – ESI

Due to a large number of universities and colleges in the region, more than 450,000 students are currently in attendance. Of this number, 54% stay in the region, and the number of R&D jobs increased by 101% in the past five years.  The region is also investing in new training programs, and according to a June 2022 study, cell and gene therapy employment has more than doubled since 2019.

  1. Innovation Output: Greater Philadelphia produces a large and growing amount of intellectual property in support of cell and gene therapy work.

 “Two important indicators of achievement and growth in the cell and gene therapy sector are innovation and production, measured by the level of patent and clinical activity occurring in a certain region.” – ESI

Philadelphia is the birthplace of cell and gene therapy. Because of this history, it boasts the first FDA-approved gene (Luxturna®) and cell (Kymriah®) therapies.  This innovation continues with 302 patents granted and 130 clinical trials now underway to discover new cell and gene therapies.

  1. Commercial Activity: The investment world increasingly sees Greater Philadelphia as a place to invest.

 “…in the past year, the region has experienced a significant acceleration of investment in its cell and gene therapy sector in the form of venture capital, major acquisitions, and firm startups and relocation.” – ESI

From 2018 to August 2022, $4.2B was invested in cell and gene therapy companies in the Philadelphia region by venture capitalists, indicating an accelerating pace of investment.  Within the past few years, two local cell and gene therapy companies (Passage and Cabaletta) have also completed IPOs, raising more than $260 million combined.

A second indicator of expanding commercial activity is real estate investment. The Philadelphia region leases nearly 12 million square feet of lab space and more than nine million additional square feet of planned or proposed lab and manufacturing space.

  1. Value Proposition: Greater Philadelphia is increasingly recognized as a great and affordable place to live.

 “Greater Philadelphia is an extremely livable region, boasting some of the world’s best museums, top-notch restaurants, and large open spaces at a comparatively affordable price.” – ESI

Philadelphia also ranks very high in value proposition, largely due to its quality of life and affordability.  As a major metropolitan city, it attracts individuals and families interested in cultural and culinary offerings and good schools. As inflation continues to rise, the region is only one of two major metropolitan areas where prices are only slightly higher than the national average.

Commercial rents for office and lab space are a significant determinant of where companies choose to locate.  The Philadelphia region has the seventh lowest asking rent per square footage (psf) at just $58.  This rent is significantly less when compared to other major hubs like Boston ($95 psf), New York ($108 psf), or San Francisco ($78 psf).

A full copy of the study is available here. The Chamber will be sharing this information with stakeholders and the media. We ask you to please share it widely by posting a link on your website, emailing it to colleagues, and sharing it with your network via social media.