In 2023, the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia is embarking on the fifth year of the Cell & Gene Therapy Initiative (the Initiative), a project launched in 2019 with 11 partner organizations – including academic institutions, businesses, and civic organizations – to build awareness of Greater Philadelphia’s leading cell and gene therapy hub, and attract more companies, talent, and investment to the region. Here, we highlight some of the work that has been done and share how you can join in the momentum in the coming year.

The start of the Initiative coincided with the tri-state region’s hosting of the 2019 BIO International Convention, providing an unprecedented opportunity to tell the region’s cell and gene therapy story to a global audience of 17,000 life sciences professionals visiting from 67 countries. At the time, Greater Philadelphia was home to 30 cell and gene therapy companies and 3,000 industry jobs. Today, the number of companies is more than 55, and regional cell and gene therapy employment has more than doubled (up 127%). Over these four years, the Chamber and its partners in the Initiative have shared news of robust venture capital investment, significant and consistent NIH funding, R&D successes, new start-ups, company expansions and relocations in the region, real estate and lab developments, Greater Philadelphia’s quality of life attributes, and more. 

Addressing workforce needs as the industry scales has been a key focus of the Initiative, and the formation of the Life Science Talent Pipeline Collaborative is one of its first accomplishments. Composed of representatives from cell and gene therapy companies and academic research labs, the employer-led Collaborative has been working to ensure a strong talent pool for the future. For example, in the fall of 2022, The Wistar Institute, West Philadelphia Skills Initiative, Iovance Biotherapeutics, PIDC, and Philadelphia Works debuted a new biotech training program connecting Philadelphians with jobs as associate aseptic manufacturing technicians. The pilot program has seen its first class of applicants placed in externship positions at Iovance. You can read more about the project here. The Chamber will continue to prioritize talent attraction and development in 2023.

In addition to aiding start-up companies, another primary objective of the Initiative has been supporting scaling and relocating companies to develop the critical infrastructure needed to smoothly transition concepts to products. The Chamber and its partners are focusing on building an ecosystem that supports growing and retaining companies, innovators, and experts in the region.

To measure the progress of the Initiative, last year, the Chamber commissioned a study with Philadelphia–based economic consulting firm Econsult Solutions, Inc. to compare 14 U.S. cell and gene therapy hubs in five key categories: research infrastructure, human capital, innovation output, commercial activity, and value proposition. Results ranked the Philadelphia region #2 among U.S. locations. The Chamber is thrilled with the findings, the progress they reflect, and the future opportunities described. You can access the full report here.

“We are extremely proud of the accomplishments of the Cell & Gene Therapy Initiative over our first four years and the significant impact it has had on educating companies looking to locate or grow in our region and talent seeking to work in the sector,” said Claire Marrazzo Greenwood, Executive Director, CEO Council for Growth and Senior Vice President of Economic Competitiveness for the Chamber. “Soon after the region’s successful hosting of BIO 2019 and the launch of the Cell & Gene Therapy Initiative, we spoke of the momentum created. Since then, we have been working to boldly promote our story of Greater Philadelphia’s role in cell and gene therapy and gene editing, anchored by a passion for improving health outcomes for people around the globe. The story is one we can all share as we work together to draw more companies, the next generation of talent, and greater investment to our collective community.”

How to Join the Effort

Individuals and companies can help fuel the Initiative’s momentum by: (1) sharing the resources detailed below, along with a sign-up link for this monthly update newsletter, with their colleagues and networks and (2) following Select Greater Philadelphia on LinkedIn and Twitter to share the region’s stories.

Cell & Gene Therapy Initiative Toolkit Resources:

The 90-second “Greater Philadelphia: Discovery Starts Here” graphic animation provides a snapshot of several of the region’s world-class research institutions and a number of the cell and gene therapy companies that have licensed technologies or spun out from them. The graphic animation also lists more than 80 investors that fueled their growth.

The Chamber’s “Discovery Starts with Me” video series educates potential employees about the attributes of living and working in Greater Philadelphia. A dozen talent ambassadors and the cell and gene therapy companies where they work have been featured as part of the series, with their stories amplified on social media and supported with a paid LinkedIn campaign.

A list of the region’s cell and gene therapy companies is another resource for others looking to locate or expand in Greater Philadelphia. New job search and property search tools on the Chamber’s Select Greater Philadelphia website share employment and real estate opportunities in the life sciences sector.

The founding members of the Cell & Gene Therapy Initiative, who are supporting efforts to accelerate growth and promote the region as the global hub of research, talent, capital, and companies in cell and gene therapy, include AmerisourceBergen, Aramark, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, ChristianaCare, Comcast, Drexel University, Independence Blue Cross, Jefferson Health, Macquarie Group, Penn Medicine, and University of Pennsylvania.