Major life sciences real estate developments are underway in Greater Philadelphia, including more than 7 million square feet of new lab space proposed or in progress, co-working space, building conversions, and manufacturing facilities. A recent Chamber event showcased trends, developments, and success stories for more than 225 attendees from inside and outside the region who joined “Leading Life Sciences: Exploring Growth in Greater Philadelphia” on May 10, 2023.

The multi-venue event was hosted at two of the region’s leading life sciences hubs – Ensemble / Mosaic at the Navy Yard and Wexford Science + Technology at One uCity Square in University City – providing opportunities for networking and guided facility tours in addition to the viewing parties. A virtual component made the program accessible to even more participants, including those who joined from California, Florida, Maryland, New York, Texas, and Washington State.

Read more below about the industry trends, development updates, and reasons to select Greater Philadelphia as a place to locate that were shared by the speakers.

Trends in Greater Philadelphia

Joe Colletti, Executive Vice President of JLL, a leading global commercial real estate and investment management company, was the keynote speaker, discussing current trends impacting Greater Philadelphia’s life science real estate market and the industry as a whole.

According to Colletti, among the trends JLL is seeing in the Greater Philadelphia region are:

  • An influx of new capital and speculative projects, specifically in the Philadelphia region;
  • Area higher education and healthcare institutions continuing to be at the forefront of development, remaining focused on making Philadelphia a great place and improving the overall ecosystem, and;
  • A focus on cGMP lab spaces for biomanufacturing and CDMOs as the region works to meet the demand once drugs get approved.

He noted that Greater Philadelphia has led the nation in cell and gene therapy research funding since 2014 and that this funding is driving a lot of the development in the region. Among the region’s assets he described are a solid talent base, great major institutions and universities, and a lower cost compared to other markets.

For leases, Colletti said, tenants are flocking to life sciences clusters, such as One uCity Square and Spring House Innovation Park. The region has a number of life sciences incubators (CIC Philadelphia, B+labs, BioLabs, and Pennovation in Philadelphia; Jefferson Institute for Bioprocessing in Lower Gwynedd, PA; Pennsylvania Biotechnology Center in Doylestown, PA; and Delaware Innovation Space in Wilmington, DE), with most at or near capacity, and several working to increase their capacity to keep up with demand.

Colletti also highlighted developments in several of the region’s life science centers, including University City, the Navy Yard, Center City, and the Philadelphia suburbs.

University City

Describing University City as a regional epicenter for cell and gene therapy research and “a hotbed for development,” Colletti highlighted several updates:

  • More than 2 million square feet of new R&D and cGMP space is expected by 2025;
  • Wexford’s One uCity Square is 95% leased;
  • 3201 Cuthbert, actively under development, signed leases with SmartLabs and Drexel, and;
  • Several developments are being done speculatively, with the expectation of more tenant requirements coming in the near future.

“One other major note,” Colletti said, “is that Spark Therapeutics recently broke ground on their 500,000-square-foot Gene Therapy Innovation Center, doubling their footprint in the region and continuing to put Greater Philadelphia at the forefront of the cell and gene therapy industry.”

Navy Yard
  • Ensemble / Mosaic’s 1201 Normandy project, actively under construction with a target delivery later this year, recently announced a lease with Invisible.
  • Additional life sciences buildings for future tenants and residential development are also underway in the Navy Yard’s master plan.
Center City
  • Continuing a trend of national life sciences developers looking to establish a presence in Philadelphia, Breakthrough Properties, a San Diego-based life sciences developer, announced the beginning of construction activities at 2300 Market.
  • The Curtis has been successful in converting office space to lab space, attracting tenants such as Aro, BioLabs, and Imvax.
Philadelphia Suburbs
  • Repositioning single-tenant pharma campuses to multi-tenant opportunities is providing more space options for tenants. Examples include Spring House Innovation Park (a former Dow campus), 250 King of Prussia Road (a former Penn Medicine Radnor outpatient facility), and Discovery Labs (a former GSK campus).

Colletti concluded his remarks by saying, “I think Philadelphia has the makings of a world-class life sciences ecosystem. We have industry leaders and institution companies. We have the talent base here, providing a great foundation for growth. There continues to be a significant capital investment in real estate and the infrastructure to support the ecosystem. We all know early-stage biotechs are going to continue to grow, so that’s going to lead to growth in the region. And I’m truly excited to be part of Philadelphia and what’s going on in the life sciences market, and I really like working with companies who are motivated to cure disease and change people’s lives.”

Development Updates

Pete Cramer, Vice President of Development at Wexford Science + Technology, and Kate McNamara, Senior Vice President, Navy Yard at PIDC, participated in a panel discussion to provide updates on developments at two of the region’s leading life sciences clusters, University City and the Navy Yard.

Kate McNamara, Navy Yard at PIDC

“We’ve seen companies really looking for a couple of things. They’re focused on high-quality buildings, purpose-built buildings, labs, cGMP, production space–all of these things in close proximity to the other companies that are doing similar types of work, to the type of talent that they need to effectively run and grow their companies, and also to the talent that’ll be needed once they get their companies to the manufacturing phase and they really need to scale up exponentially.”

Pete Cramer, Wexford Science + Technology

“We’re super excited about Philadelphia. Wexford is a company that has a national lens into life sciences, and Philadelphia as a market is one of our best and brightest projects.”

Companies that Recently Located in Philadelphia

Attendees also heard the experiences of two life sciences leaders whose companies selected Greater Philadelphia as a place to locate – Sumit Verma, Senior Vice President, Global Strategic Manufacturing at Iovance Biotherapeutics, Inc., and Sharon Willis, Co-Founder, Vice President, Sales and Customer Relations at Integral Molecular.

Sharon Willis, Integral Molecular, located at One uCitySquare

“We are a company born and grown right here in University City. We spun out of the University of Pennsylvania and started in one of the incubator labs at the Science Center. We’re really attached to University City for a number of reasons.” Among those reasons Willis mentioned are: easy access for employees from the Philly suburbs, good public transportation, workforce development initiatives, interactions and collaborations with other companies, proximity to colleges and universities for collaborations and employee recruitment, and the chance to build out custom lab space.

Sumit Verma, Iovance Biotherapeutics, Inc., located at the Navy Yard

“Logistics and transportation was very key to us. As you can imagine, we have to make products in a centralized manufacturing facility, but very quickly and rapidly move this product to the patients that need it.”

“Leading Life Sciences: Exploring Growth in Greater Philadelphia” was supported by title sponsors JLL and Precis. The event was also co-sponsored by Fox Rothschild LLP, IPS, Navy Yard, PIDC, Slalom, and WSFS Bank. Supporting sponsors included Econsult Solutions Inc. and Jacobs. Life Sciences PA was a partnering organization. For information on future sponsorship opportunities, please contact the Chamber’s membership engagement team.

The Chamber presents “Leading Life Sciences” annually, as well as provides updates on the region’s life sciences real estate development to partners and stakeholders throughout the year. Please contact the Chamber’s membership engagement team for information on related future sponsorship opportunities.