Philadelphia Life Sciences on Cutting Edge Despite Industry Disruption

22 Jan 2018

Philadelphia Navy Yard Exterior

Multiple factors are propelling the U.S. life-science industry, and by extension the real estate that supports it, to strong growth, thereby positioning major research-and-development centers like Philadelphia for attractive growth, according to a new report from CBRE.

While many U.S. industries are navigating fundamental disruption, the life-sciences industry – which includes pharmaceuticals, biotechnology and medical-device manufacturing – is on a long-term expansion track. CBRE’s report examines the generators of the industry’s sustained growth, including the aging U.S. population, increases in public and private funding, hefty job gains and robust construction of lab and R&D space.

“Many solid trends support strong growth going forward for the life-sciences sector, especially in major R&D markets,” said Ian Anderson, CBRE Director of Research and Analysis and lead author of the report. “The Philadelphia region is particularly well-positioned with a strong industry presence in University City, the Route 202 corridor, and the Navy Yard, among others. The market for lab space in these submarkets offers several secular growth drivers and constrained supply.”

Greater Philadelphia is one of the nation’s traditional life sciences centers, but is also reinventing itself as the industry changes. Between 2001 and 2016, it lost almost one third of its drug manufacturing employment, mostly in suburban Montgomery and Chester counties where the bulk of Greater Philadelphia’s life sciences industry has historically clustered along the Route 202 Corridor. Over the same time, Philadelphia’s deep pool of R&D talent has remained stable, but is slowly moving from the suburbs to the city’s growing Philadelphia Navy Yard and to University City.

CBRE’s report outlines factors expanding the life-sciences market, including the nine-year gain in average life expectancy in the U.S. since the 1960s, rapid advances in life-sciences technology and increases in funding from the National Institutes of Health and venture-capital sources. For example, venture capital investment in the U.S. life-sciences industry now is 53 percent greater than 10 years ago.

CBRE Philadelphia Life Sciences Employment Figure

“When you look at the landscape of investment opportunities within the commercial real estate sector, few asset classes offer as compelling a case for near-term optimism as the life-sciences industry,” said Scott Marshall, CBRE President of Advisory & Transaction Services | Investor Leasing. “Our team has analyzed the labor trends and found that, especially in Massachusetts and California, there are significant growth opportunities within the life-sciences industries going forward.”


CBRE’s analysis found that regions with high concentrations of research and development jobs also saw the highest growth in their overall life-sciences job bases in the past 15 years. That indicates continued strong growth for leading R&D markets such as Boston, the San Francisco Bay Area, San Diego and Raleigh, N.C.

In contrast, markets with a historical reliance on the pharmaceutical and medicine-manufacturing industries, such as Philadelphia, likely will grow at a slower pace than the R&D markets as they reinvent themselves.

What drives the Philadelphia life sciences industry is not only its deep talent pool but its major universities and acclaimed hospitals. With its accessibility along the Northeast Corridor and its much lower costs compared to New York and Washington D.C., Philadelphia is a very attractive location for life sciences companies. However, a relative lack of capital availability remains an impediment to stronger growth for the industry in the region. Aside from significant funding from NIH, the region lacks sufficient access to venture capital for some emerging companies to stay there.

Nonetheless, remarkable achievements and ground-breaking research are being conducted in Philadelphia, particularly in gene therapy. Recent developments demonstrating the momentum of the region’s Life Sciences industry include the rapid expansion of Spark Therapeutics, plans by China-based pharma firm KPB Biosciences for a Philadelphia-area headquarters, and a $100 million investment in University City-based Tmunity Therapeutics.

To read the full report, including outtakes on seven leading life-sciences markets, click here
About CBRE Group, Inc.
CBRE Group, Inc. (NYSE:CBRE), a Fortune 500 and S&P 500 company headquartered in Dallas, is the world’s largest commercial real estate services and investment firm (based on 2021 revenue). The company has more than 105,000 employees (excluding Turner & Townsend employees) serving clients in more than 100 countries. CBRE serves a diverse range of clients with an integrated suite of services, including facilities, transaction and project management; property management; investment management; appraisal and valuation; property leasing; strategic consulting; property sales; mortgage services and development services. Please visit our website at www.cbre.com.