February 4, 2013 by 

Boston might be the top hub for life sciences in the U.S., but there are lots of cities hot on its tail.

In addition to ranking the top 10 clusters for life sciences in 2012, an annual report from Jones Lang LaSalle’s highlighted some fast-growing cities for life sciences innovation. Two of the top five emerging cities, Westchester/New Haven and Salt Lake City, weren’t even on the same list last year.

Anchored by some of the most prolific universities for research (Harvard, MIT), some of the topNational Institutes of Health-funded hospitals(Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center) and industry giants like Boston Scientific Corp. and Genzyme, the Greater Boston Area is apparently the top spot for life sciences in the U.S.

No surprise here, but the Jones Lang LaSalle once again named Boston the top cluster for life sciences. The 2012 edition of the financial and professional services firm’s annual Life Sciences Cluster Report (PDF) ranked cities based on the percentage of their workforce employed in the life sciences, the percentages of their establishments devoted to life sciences and the venture capital and NIH funding their life sciences communities brought in.

The report is an interesting read, but the list itself isn’t terribly exciting; the cities in the top 10remain unchanged from last year, a testament to their firmly rooted life sciences communities. Four other usual suspects — San DiegoSan FranciscoResearch Triangle Park and Philadelphia— rounded out the top five.

Big movers within the top 10 from last year included New York/New Jersey, which slipped from No. 2 on last year’s list to No. 7 on this year’s, and scored low in percentages of its businesses and residences that are life sciences establishments and employees. Roche, for one, closed a plant in New Jersey and Dendreon also sold a plant. On the other hand, lots of M&A buzz in San Diego (including Ardea’s sale to AstraZeneca and Amylin’s sale to Bristol-Myers Squibb) helped push it into the No. 2 slot.

Here’s the complete top 10 list for 2012:

  1. Boston
  2. San Diego
  3. San Francisco/Bay Area
  4. Raleigh-Durham
  5. Philadelphia
  6. Maryland/D.C./Arlington
  7. New Jersey/New York City
  8. L.A./Orange County
  9. Twin Cities
  10. Seattle

Most interesting about this report are the cities that landed just outside of the top 10 — the emerging clusters like Westchester/New Haven, Chicago and Seattle, where new incubators, research parks and initiatives are giving life to growing, innovative research and startup communities. Later today I’ll be highlighting some of the activity in these fast-growing startup cities.


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Here’s a closer look at the initiatives, startups and innovation climates in the top five up-and-coming healthcare hubs.


Westchester/New Haven

The corridor between Boston and New Jersey is becoming a hub of its own thanks to new incubator developments and state and local efforts to encourage life sciences research and investment. The report also calls attention to the presence of a well-educated workforce and strong higher educational institutions and research hospitals in this area.

Aside from bigger pharmaceutical companies like Acorda Therapeutics (NASDAQ:ACOR), Achillon Pharmaceuticals and Alexion Pharmaceuticals, the area is home to some promising smaller companies. QUICK LLC, for one, is developing a saliva-based mobile diagnostic toolRib-X Pharmaceuticals, co-founded by a Nobel Prize-winning Yale professor, is in phase 3 testing of its monotherapy for bacterial infections based on an understanding of the 3-D properties of antibiotics.


As the home to Abbott Laboratories, Baxter and Walgreens — and startup resources liked the Healthbox accelerator and Chicago Innovation Mentors — Chicago has also become a space for spinoffs and startups, especially in health IT. A few on our radar are Blue Cross Blue Shield spinoffBlue Health Intelligence, which provides healthcare data analysis, and Pervasive Health, a data analysis company founded by entrepreneurs in the mobile industry.


Ten higher education institutions in the Denver area have life sciences research programs, according to the report, and Colorado has five venture firms with partial or full focus on funding local life sciences companies. It also has Spectrum Pharmaceuticals and the Fitzsimons Life Science District.

Nearby Aurora is the headquarters of a company taking an innovative approach to fighting hospital infectionsSharklet Technologies. Meanwhile, University of Colorado spinoff Mosaic Biosciences, which is developing synthetic materials for wound healing, is located in Boulder.


Statewide initiatives like the Third Frontier Project and a collaboration between Case Western Reserve University, University of Cincinnati and Ohio State University to streamline the IRB approval process have made Ohio an affordable and supportive environment for launching a life sciences company.

MedCity News is based in Cleveland, so we’re especially fond of local startups like Zuga Medical, which is commercializing a way to simplify dental implants, and 7signal, which helps hospitalsmonitor their wireless connectivity. But other areas in the state are producing great companies too. Cincinnati’s Aerpio Therapeutics raised a $27 million series A last year for its diabetic macular edema drug, and Columbus’ HealthSpot launched its telehealth kiosk at CES this year.

Salt Lake City

Here’s one we don’t hear about too often. That’s probably because the Salt Lake City area receives a relatively low amount of venture capital and National Institutes of Health funding. It’s home to only 500 life sciences-related companies, but that accounts for a pretty sizable percentage of the total workforce, and public and private groups are trying to build it up as a research hub.

Startups on our radar include Catheter Connections, a startup that’s created an infection-control cap for IV luers, and Juneau Biosciences, which is developing a DNA-based test for identifying women at risk for endometriosis.

[Chicago photo from Wikimedia Commons]

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