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3 Final Life Science Clusters For Job Searches

3 more life science clusters for your job search
Written by: Arunodoy Sur, Ph.D.

When it comes to searching for a job, location matters.

I used to think that living in an area that was considered a life science hub would mean that I would never get a job.

I thought the competition would be too fierce.

In reality, the opposite was true.

The fiercest competition was in remote areas of the country where there were few companies, even fewer openings, and many job-hungry graduates hoping to make their career transition a reality.

As networking is such a pivotal part of a job search strategy, living in an area with both a high concentration of biotechnology and biopharmaceutical companies and, in turn, networking events, was key.

I could easily prioritize both networking and completing my research without having to travel far.

Most importantly, I networked with employees at these company hubs before I graduated so I could build professional relationships and learn which companies I would be most interested in working with.

When you start networking in a biotechnology or biopharmaceutical cluster, you quickly learn that you don’t have to just accept the first job offer you get.

Biotechnology and biopharmaceutical clusters are an exciting hub of innovation and discovery where you will find world leaders in research and development who are specifically looking for PhDs to hire.

Engaging with these clusters was a strategic move that exposed me to a breadth of contacts, and eventually industry interviews.

This is what happened to me.

Now, I’m in a career I thoroughly enjoy and have numerous opportunities for collaboration.

Why Biotechnology And Biopharmaceutical Clusters Hire PhDs

There are biotech and biopharma companies in most major metropolitan areas in the U.S.

If you want to increase your chances of successfully landing a position, you have to look in an area with the highest concentration of employers.

It’s common sense.

Life science clusters are the best places to start.

This is where you’re going to get the best return on your investment.

According to the San Diego Tribune, San Diego County, with nearly 9% of the state population, employs 13% of California’s life science workforce.

Similarly, the San Francisco Bay area, with 21% of California’s population, employs 24% of the life science workforce.

Since it is home to multiple academic organizations, this cluster also received a healthy amount of $884.7 million in NIH funding, indicating its strength in fundamental research.

Not only are there more employers, but there is more funding available in these areas.

Meanwhile, the National Venture Capital Association reported $58.8 billion USD in venture capital invested across the U.S. in just one year.

That’s 4.4% of all venture capital funding, industry-wide.

Los Angeles is up-and-coming in the California area, and is often overlooked in comparison, but accounts for about 16% of the total national VC funding for life science sector in the U.S.

Similarly, in between 2012 and 2014, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that the amount of VC funding received by this region grew by 27.8% to a total of $460.4 million.

If you want a job in industry, follow the money.

If you are tired of working in cash-strapped academia and want to be in an innovative environment, look no further than life science clusters.

3 Fast-Growing Biotech And Biopharma Life Science Clusters

PhDs are always wondering where to find jobs outside of academia.

Transitioning out of academia is a maze of confusion on its own, let alone knowing how to target your search effectively.

The best places to target are the areas with the greatest concentration of employment.

This is where you’ll find companies that fit your interests, your goals, and your lifestyle.

Once you have focused in on a cluster, look online for networking events that you can attend to begin to build relationships with employees.

For example, the Research Triangle Park and Life Science Washington advertise events on their home page.

If you are considering relocating following your PhD, the first thing you should do is consider applying for jobs in one of these top 10 biotechnology and biopharmaceutical clusters in the U.S….

Life Science job search cluster map

Many of the above clusters have been covered in previous articles.

Here, were are going to focus on 3 of the smaller but fastest growing clusters in the U.S….

1. Philadelphia Life Science Cluster.

The Philadelphia region’s life science industry benefits from being located in one of the largest metropolitan areas, having a strong talent pipeline and strong market fundamentals.

The Philadelphia area hub has a healthy mixture of well-established large pharma companies and new innovative start-ups.

However, in the recent past, this region has not been able to replicate the growth of major life science clusters such as San Diego or Boston.

Administrative heads are taking initiatives to boost the life science sector and catch up with the top tier biopharma clusters.

Philadelphia and its surrounding area is home to a number of universities and research organizations that excel in life science.

Some of the innovative start-ups in this region are the outcome of the translation of innovations that originated from these academic organizations.

They also act as a source for a young and talented PhD workforce.

This region benefits from its proximity to reputable universities such as Penn State, University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University, Carnegie Mellon University, and University of Pittsburgh.

Drug development, pharmaceuticals, medical labs, and testing labs are major subsectors of this cluster.

This region is home to some large pharmaceutical companies such as GSK, Pfizer, Merck, Shire Pharmaceuticals, and MedImmune.

It also has a fair share of up-and-coming start-ups such as the gene therapy company, Spark Therapeutics, which is based on scientific innovation that originated from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Another promising company of this region, Adaptimmune, developed with help of the University of Pennsylvania, is developing T-cell therapy for cancer.

The Los Angeles Life Science job cluster

2. Los Angeles Life Science Cluster.

The Los Angeles metropolitan area, with an estimated population of about 18 million, is the second largest metropolitan area in the United States.

Its position as a vibrant international city, well-connected to the rest of the world, and home to a number of research institutes, universities, and colleges makes it one of the ideal locations for the biotech industry.

In spite of this potential, the southern California cluster has not yet developed as much as the two other major biotech locations in the state, San Francisco Bay area and San Diego.

Currently, the LA metropolitan area is home to over 3,000 life science establishments.

These establishments employ nearly 120,000 employees.

The life science industry in this region is estimated to have created more than $27.3 billion in annual economic activity.

The three major research organizations in this area with a focus on the biotech/pharma industry are University of Southern California, University of California-Los Angeles, and University of California-Irvine.

These 3 organizations received 68% of the total federal funding that went to this Southern California cluster.

To boost the growth of the biotech industry in this region, these institutes have also started collaborating more with private companies.

The presence of these universities in the LA metropolitan area also accounted for this cluster being one of the top regions for life science patents.

As a result of being home to multiple premier academic organizations, the LA region life science hub brought in over a billion dollars in NIH funding.

The subgroups of the life science industry that are prominent in this cluster are pharmaceuticals, biotech, electromedical devices, and new diagnostics technologies.

Some of the organizations that call LA-Orange County their home include large biotechs such as Amgen and Allergan, medical device companies such as Beckman Coulter, and diagnostics such as Quest Diagnostics.

This region has also given rise to innovative start-ups such as Kite Pharma, which is developing a CAR T-cell technology for cancer.

Chicago Life Science job cluster

3. Chicago Life Science Cluster.

This is the most prominent life science hub in the Midwest.

This cluster benefits from Chicago’s position as a major economic center and has access to a large educated population.

Illinois produces a large number of advanced scientific and engineering degrees holders, with about 42,000 awarded annually.

This large number of potential employees is essential to sustaining a healthy life science cluster.

This area has about 30 teaching hospitals and large national laboratories such as Argonne National Laboratories, which significantly contribute to innovation.

It also contains two of the top national medical research programs at the University of Chicago and Northwestern University.

Besides these two medical research programs, this area has multiple major research universities such as University of Illinois at Chicago, Rush University, Illinois Institute of Technology, and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, all of which excel in life sciences.

Medical equipment, diagnostic laboratories, and manufacturing of supplies make up a major portion of the life science industry.

Besides, this sector is also home to large pharma such as Abbott, Abbvie, Shire, Hospira, and Valeant Pharma.

Being close to major airports and a large educated population helps this cluster with connectivity and a qualified labor force.

The high level of connectivity also helps to tap into other nearby Midwest markets or collaborate with nearby major companies such as Eli Lily in Indianapolis.

Although this area has a lot of potential, it still has quite a long way to go in order to catch up with the major life science hubs such as the San Francisco Bay area and San Diego in California, or the Cambridge area in Massachusetts.

It lags behind in VC funding and the number of new innovative start-ups coming up each year.

From the above examples, it is obvious that the life science industry is doing well and growing in certain specific locations, but it is heavily clustered and not widespread across the country.

In the last 5 to 10 years, a number of other locations have taken up initiatives in order to spread out these biotechnology and biopharmaceutical clusters.

One of the new upcoming life science hubs which have shown promising growth over the last 5 years is the Denver area in Colorado.

The Florida cluster that extends from Gainesville to Miami has also grown exponentially over the last few years.

Another regional hub which is expected to flourish in the near future is the Texas life science industry, with Austin as its epicenter.

Almost all 50 states in the U.S. have now developed a specific division in their state administration which is dedicated to facilitating the growth of innovative life science companies in the state. Over the next few years, we can expect a few more additions to the list of top life science industry clusters in the U.S. Focusing your job search strategy to target these cluster areas increases your ability to network into an industry job that is specific to your career goals in an area that is thriving.

To learn more about the 3 final life science clusters for job searches, including instant access to our exclusive training videos, case studies, industry insider documents, transition plan, and private online network, get on the wait list for the Cheeky Scientist Association.

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Arunodoy Sur, Ph.D.

Arunodoy Sur, Ph.D.

Arunodoy is a Ph.D. in Integrative Biology and has training in intellectual property, entrepreneurship, and venture capitalism. He also has experience with global biotechnology and biopharmaceutical companies, including clinical trial consulting. Arunodoy is passionate about the translation of academic research to the real world and commercialization of scientific innovation so that it can help solve problems and benefit people. He possesses in-depth understanding of both technological and commercial aspects associated with the life science industry.
Arunodoy Sur, Ph.D.
  • Shawn Lyons

    Oh, I’ve been looking forward to another list of centers! Thanks so much, Arunodoy! 🙂

    • Arunodoy Sur

      Hi @ShawnLyonsPhD:disqus you are welcome. Glad to know you found this 3-part series helpful.

  • Matthew Smithson PhD

    Don’t forget that this is also great information for those of us who are always looking to advance in our careers. Knowing exactly where these hubs are is really a gift. Thanks for that.

    • Arunodoy Sur

      Hi @matthewsmithsonphd:disqus Yes, once you are in an area with high density of companies and opportunities it makes advancing your career easier. Happy that you found the information helpful

  • Kathy Azalea

    Knowing that there are so many of these life science clusters is helping me get over my job search anxiety so much. I like a lot of these locations, so I’ll just pick out my favorite and start there when I get out of school.

    • Arunodoy Sur

      Hi @KathyAzalea:disqus it is good that you are starting to plan when you are still in school. I would suggest you pick 2-3 top locations and start networking with professionals in those cities/regions before you graduate.

  • Julian Holst

    So far, I’ve seen a lot of clusters in areas where I would definitely like to live – San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego. It’s great to know that this information is out there for those of us who have a good idea of where we want to settle down.

    • Arunodoy Sur

      Hi @JulianholstUSA:disqus Those 3 areas definitely have a lot of opportunities in the life science sector. By the way, they are on top of my list of target places too 🙂 Someday I want to move there.

      • Julian Holst

        Yeah, the surfing is much better there. 😉

  • Madeline Rosemary

    These articles about clusters have been making me curious. Turns out, they’re all around the world, and they’re helping small-to-midsize start-ups save money everywhere. It seems like an interesting evolution of business model that coincidentally matches the reality of booming population worldwide. With travel and delivery costs so high and traffic so slow, start-up real estate located close to collaborators, vendors, and end-line users is a lifesaver.

    • Arunodoy Sur

      Hi @madelinerosemary:disqus There are about 10 clusters in the EU and also 5-6 major clusters in Asia. The companies tend to be clustered because it makes easier to collaborate. Moreover, other “services” needed for life science indsutry to succeed such as intellectual property law firms, VC firms, CROs tend to cluster around these areas.

      • Madeline Rosemary

        Thanks for that, Arunodoy! 🙂

  • Harvey Delano

    Even more great choices!

  • Carlie Stevenson, PhD

    Yes, there’s really no limit to opportunity. When I was first trying to break free from academia, I had no idea where to start, but gradually possibilities seemed to emerge and coincide with my own needs. It’s a lot easier when you have someone like Arunodoy and Cheeky Scientist pointing the way, though!

    • Arunodoy Sur

      Hi @CarlieStevensonPhD:disqus Being aware of new developments in the industry and having the right information makes a lot of difference regarding looking for the ideal opportunities. That is why we write these articles 🙂

  • Marvin D’Esprit

    These choices represent more than just a way to get out of academia and start a real life. They offer a profitable avenue to see more of the world and experience world-class destinations. Personally, I’ve never lived in Philly or Chicago before, yet both places really appeal. What a great way to break out of the academic experience.

    • Arunodoy Sur

      Hi @marvindesprit:disqus Yes, moving to a new location and pursuing career goals has the additional value of getting to know new people, have new experiences and enriching your life.

  • Theo

    This is great, Arunodoy. Thanks so much. Seems like candidates would be flooding the gates at these places, but it makes sense that they have more jobs available, given your explanation. Thumbs up!

    • Arunodoy Sur

      Hi @TheloniusJHolland:disqus Yes, there are a number of jobs available in these locations because of the high concentration of organizations. So, these are ideal locations for candidates to target.

  • Sonja Luther

    I’m just really in a state of awe. I had no idea there were so many positions for PhD’s. I know that a lot of PhD’s struggle trying to find positions after graduate school, whereas they used to automatically transition into professorships.

    • Arunodoy Sur

      Hi @sonjaluther:disqus Often PhDs go into academic careers because they are unaware of other alternative opportunities. That is why we write these kind of articles. It is important for new/future PhDs to know that struggling over an overcrowded job market of tenureship is not their only career option.

  • Rahul Pandey

    Thanks Arunodoy for your write up. I saw your training and expertise in IPR. Can you please guide on how to enhance your skills and knowledge in the area. Which are the best places?