October 17, 2017

Biopharma investment, jobs spiked in 2016 in Massachusetts

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Biopharma is big business in the Bay State.

While growing spending on prescription drugs is a target of state and federal policymakers, employment and investment levels in the biopharmaceutical sector in Massachusetts continue to increase, according to a new report.

The Massachusetts Biotechnology Council’s annual industry snapshot found biopharma employment grew 4.8 percent last year, with more than 3,000 jobs added.

There are 66,414 people employed at biopharma companies in Massachusetts, earning $9.2 billion in total annual wages, for an average salary of $138,768, according to the report.

This year, the state’s largest biopharma employer is Sanofi Genzyme, which has 5,000 employees, followed by Shire with 3,040 and Biogen with 2,443. Abbvie, located at 100 Research Drive, employs 911 in the state.

Venture investment in Massachusetts biopharma companies hit $2.9 billion last year, up from the $2.3 billion in 2015 and more than triple the $900 million recorded in 2012, according to the report.

The bulk of the 2016 venture dollars were concentrated in the greater Boston area, the report shows.

Cambridge-based companies received 59 percent of the biotech venture investment made in 2016, or more than $1.3 billion. More than $500 million went to companies in Boston, $219 million to Waltham and $95 million to Lexington, with the remaining $94.5 million distributed elsewhere.

The report highlighted spending by the National Institutes of Health. Among Massachusetts nonprofits, University of Massachusetts Medical School was second only to Harvard in NIH funding. UMass Medical School received 344 awards totaling $153,892,824. Harvard received 373 awards worth $195,160,545.

The report lands as federal and state officials are both eyeing action around pharmaceutical prices, and as industry officials tout the often life-changing impacts of new drugs and the importance of furthering research and development.

President Donald Trump on Monday identified it as a priority to bring the costs of prescription drugs “way down.”

“I will tell you, you have prescription drugs — you go to England, you go to various places, Canada — you go to many, many countries, and the same exact pill from the same company, the same box, same everything, is a tiny fraction of what it costs in the United States,” Trump said in a Rose Garden press conference with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

On Beacon Hill, a group of senators that has been working on healthcare cost control legislation planned to detail its ideas Tuesday afternoon, and Senate President Stanley Rosenberg has said it will include efforts to increase transparency around prescription drug costs.

Rosenberg said earlier this month the group had “very productive” conversations with the pharmaceutical industry and took a collaborative approach to developing their proposals.

The life sciences industry has also been targeted for major investment by the state.

Gov. Charlie Baker in June proposed a five-year plan to steer $500 million into public infrastructure, research and development, workforce training and education to support the life sciences plan, extending the 10-year, $1 billion program put into place by his predecessor, Gov. Deval Patrick.

Baker’s bill (H 3770) calls for up to $295 million in capital spending and up to $150 million in tax incentives associated with job creation.

Robert Coughlin, president of the biotechnology council, touted Baker’s initiative as “evidence the state remains committed to the industry.”

“MassBio’s annual industry snapshot makes clear Massachusetts is the #1 biotech cluster in the world, home to the best universities, hospitals and biopharma companies, along with the brightest minds in the industry — but we didn’t get there by chance,” Coughlin said in a statement. “In order to remain on top, we must continue to foster a welcoming environment for life sciences companies to grow and move here.”

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