How talent migration due to a pandemic will change where biotech companies are located


Alexandria Executive Chairman Joel Marcus. (Alexandria real estate stock photo)

Joel marcus“Fortunes have grown along with those of the life sciences industry. The executive chairman of the life sciences builder Alexandria real estate actions first lab space purchased in Seattle in 1996, two years after founding the company when biotechnology was still emerging as an industry.

Alexandria is now a publicly traded giant with a market cap of over $ 30 billion, millions of square feet of lab space across the United States, and a venture capital arm, Alexandria Venture Investments. And his Pasadena, Calif., Company has helped make the Seattle area one of the nation’s top ten biotech hubs.

Just as Marcus has seen and benefited from the rise of biotechnology, he is reading tea leaves as the pandemic fuels investor interest in biotechnology and disrupts business models. He spoke about the future of the industry in Seattle and beyond in an interview with Life Science Washington CEO Leslie Alexander at Trade Group annual summit Last week.

In Seattle alone, the company’s buildings house Sana Biotechnology, the new headquarters of Adaptive Biotechnologies and the laboratories of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, to name a few. She built the headquarters of Juno Therapeutics, the cell therapy biotechnology company acquired by Celgene for $ 9 billion in 2018, and is developing a life sciences hub on the nearly three-acre Mercer Mega Block in Seattle. And its venture capital arm has backed Seattle companies like Silverback Therapeutics and cell therapy startup Umoja Biopharma.

Alexandria is also seize real estate in nearby Bothell, Wash., where it is home to the global biotechnology headquarters Seagen.

Marcus spoke with Alexandre about the rise of a “star and hub” business model, the growth of biotech clusters and the need to strengthen supply chains. The pandemic has also revealed the need for complex therapies, which puts the Seattle area in a good position to forge the next generation of drugs.

Read one for interview highlights below, edited for clarity and brevity.

Biotech clusters will strengthen

Joël Marcus: “The war for talent is where it all happens. If you’re starting a business, you’re not going to start somewhere that doesn’t have a talent pool. You cannot start a business in a new city. You can start a small business and grow it to a certain extent, but you can’t significantly scale it. I think the existing clusters will become even more dominant.

New business structures will develop

Related: Biotechnology Boom: How Life Sciences Got Out of the Seattle and Washington State Doldrums

“As talent moves with COVID, I think there are going to be more shelf and hub situations with businesses. So you could have a Seattle company that has a presence in San Francisco, and maybe a presence in Boston. We are already seeing that with a number of companies, Sana is a prime example. (Sana is headquartered in Seattle but is hiring biotech clusters in Boston and San Francisco and building a manufacturing facility in the Bay Area.)

Seattle has brains and talent

“We always thought Seattle was a really great place and I think today we see it as an amazing region. This intersection of technology and life sciences is pretty big. It is a world class place with great science.

Venture capital is a lot, but it’s probably not as strong as some of the other areas, so it’s something that needs to be improved.

And then you see big waves with management talent creating new businesses. The people who started and grew at Juno and so many other companies have now helped seed and start other businesses. And that is really a good thing. But I think governance in Seattle today is a big question.

Workers look beyond urban areas

Related: Are Tech Employees Coming Back to Downtown Seattle? Here’s what the companies are planning.

“When you look at the greater Puget Sound area, I think you have to recognize that people are nervous about living in urban areas that are not well governed. And there are parts of Seattle, you get off at Pioneer Square and it’s a pretty tough area there, and that’s true for a number of places.

Bothell, Washington has room to grow

“Seagen has been a foothold there for decades and has done a great job in developing this ecosystem. Bothell has been an important place. I think today, in the world of next-generation manufacturing for gene and cell therapy, Bothell represents a great place for these companies to grow and create these essential facilities that are really needed.

Strengthening supply chains for the 21stst century

“We’re seeing this across the board, supply lines are a problem, and it’s important that we manufacture and keep critical industries here. The infrastructure bill before Congress, which was the first bill that seemed somewhat bipartisan … if you look at it, infrastructure is really 20th century infrastructure. It is not intended for the 21st century. That’s not really going a lot in the next generation of biotech or semiconductor manufacturing. “

Prepare for the development of complex therapies

“The second part, in addition to what COVID has laid out with supply chain issues, is that the future of medicine is about complex drugs, next generation drugs. And it’s in gene therapy, cell therapy and beyond. And we have to have that control [of the supply chain], and I think Washington, and the Puget Sound area in particular, has a great opportunity there. “

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