MassBio wants improved manufacturing to maintain biohub position

By Ben Hargreaves

- Last updated on GMT

(Image: Getty/Oleksii Liskonih)
(Image: Getty/Oleksii Liskonih)

Related tags Biopharma hub Massachusetts

The organization calls for capabilities to manufacture advanced therapeutics, such as cell and gene therapies.

In MassBio’s recent report​ on the Massachusetts, US, biopharma hub, the organization outlined what the state needs to maintain its position as the ‘top location worldwide for the life sciences industry’.

Although MassBio recognizes that the state is a leading center for R&D, it used the report to state the areas that need to be improved, with the first on the list being the state of its biomanufacturing development and facilities.

The membership group did outline that $1.9bn (€1.6bn) had been invested in new or expanded facilities over the last five years, and it was able to claim that manufacturing roles have grown at a rate of 6%​, well above the national average of 1%, over the last decade.

However, other states are also seeing significant investment, with Pennsylvania able to claim one project alone​ that will invest $1.1bn into the area.

As a result, MassBio is calling for greater investment to facilitate bioproduction in the state to reverse the “perception that Massachusetts still lacks capabilities on the manufacturing side.”

In particular, the organization wants to see manufacturing capabilities that focus on ‘novel modalities’, such as cell and gene therapies – an area where North Carolina is excelling​ in attracting investment.

More immediately, Massachusetts could place itself at the forefront of the current pandemic by supplying manufacturing capacity for potential and future vaccines for COVID-19.

Given the immediacy of the issue, the state would have to move quickly to provide manufacturing in the short-term, but with COVID-19 also likely to promote the production of more drugs within the US itself, MassBio believes there is an opportunity in the long-term regardless.

Improvements to infrastructure

Acknowledging that Massachusetts currently attracts a lot of early-stage R&D work, MassBio raised concerns that more basic infrastructure, such as housing, office/lab space, and transportation, is becoming a pressing issue.

MassBio highlighted the limited availability and expense of lab space as reaching a point that could dissuade companies working in the life science space from moving to the area.

The organization quotes figures that sees the average gross rent in Boston reaching $108 per square-foot. Further than this, in Boston, only 0.8% of lab space is available to rent, and the situation is worse in East Cambridge, which has a vacancy rate of 0.0%.

These figures compare unfavorably to the average of 7.1% vacancy rate across other life sciences hubs in the US.

As a result, the organization concluded, “Cambridge/Boston is unaffordable and unavailable for many of the entrepreneurs and small companies operating in the R&D and innovation space.”

To remedy the situation, MassBio is calling for the creation of ‘mini-clusters’ around the state to provide more affordable real estate and to provide hubs for biomanufacturing, while alleviating some of the strain of having companies concentrated in East Cambridge/Boston.

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