Search These 3 Life Science Clusters For A Biotechnology Job

Employment clusters for a biotechnology job
Written by: Arunodoy Sur, Ph.D.

I was apprehensive to start working in “Big Pharma”.

Companies in this sector seemed very structured and rigid.

Yet, working in this sector seemed like the path I would have to take.

Big companies were visible and obvious as the next step for my industry transition.

The only job postings I could find online were from big companies.

Still… I liked the idea of working for a small to mid-level company instead.

At a small to mid-level company, I would have the opportunity to try my hand at many different skills and wear multiple hats.

But again, the problem was that smaller companies, start-ups especially, were difficult to find online.

These types of companies rarely posted job openings on online job boards or social media.

I was only looking for jobs on big online job boards at the time.

Just like everyone else.

To find a way into a small to mid-level company, I needed a company directory and I needed to network.

Fortunately, I found out about a biotechnology cluster in my area.

What is a biotech cluster?

A biotech cluster is an amalgamation of small, medium and large companies, research centers, academic institutes, and government agencies.

They thrive on cooperativity and innovation, and have sustained financial support.

For me, the biotech cluster I found was a jackpot of opportunities with companies that would fit my professional goals.

I immediately reached out to employees for informational interviews and learned about their day-to-day activities and how I could make myself an ideal job candidate.

Now, my job search strategy was on track and I was soon hired into a mid-level company.

Why PhDs Should Search Biotechnology Clusters When Looking For A Job

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that scientists and engineers will remain in demand for the next decade in the U.S., with a 23.1% increase in the next 10 years.

In the upcoming Global Sciences Outlook report, the demand for scientists is expected to increase in conjunction with global trends to serve an aging population and an increase in communicable and chronic diseases.

There has never been a better time to move into industry.

Biotechnology clusters are known to foster innovation and its translation.

This is not limited to big companies — according to the Annual Jones Lang LaSalle report, growth in biotechnology clusters is attributed to the smaller companies opening laboratories in emerging cluster markets.

Since life science technologies in particular take a long time to commercialize and are often risk-prone, long-term funding is essential for sustained growth.

Regions that have been historically successful in developing a biotechnology industry are also the ones that managed to attract the most venture capital funding for start-ups as well as federal funding for basic research.

Therefore, targeting these biotech clusters as a source of employment provides an opportunity for PhDs to be at the forefront of innovation with the stability of working in a financially stable environment.

What’s more, these clusters are a one-stop shop for every type of life science organisation — from startup to “Big Pharma” — PhDs will have the choice of which organizational culture to target.

How To Get Hired Into A Mid-Level Job In A Biotechnology Cluster

When it comes to getting an industry job, it is important to look for companies that pique your interest while offering room to grow professionally.

There are no shortage of companies within life science clusters that can fit this criteria.

If you are already in a graduate school that is affiliated with one of these clusters, you may even think about establishing collaborations or inviting industry professionals to speak at networking events.

Start early building relationships with industry professionals at these companies and be consistent.

In particular, focus your efforts within hotbeds of biotechnology activity.

Ask yourself, where are PhDs getting hired right now?

Which companies just doubled their annual growth?

Where are these companies located?

Once you start answering these questions, you’ll notice that many of the world’s fastest growing companies, especially small to mid-level sized companies, are located in discrete clusters.

3 of the hottest biotech clusters are located in the U.S.

Here’s how to find these clusters and how to get jobs at small to mid-level companies within them…

New York biotechnology job cluster

1. New York and New Jersey biotech cluster.

This area has some of the oldest pharmaceutical establishments in the country.

With access to the highest concentration of people in the nation, in addition to international connectivity and proximity to the financial capital of NY, this area has always been conducive to developing industry.

Over the past few years, NY has initiated a renewed initiative to develop the biotechnology industry and has been able to attract significant investments and a skilled workforce.

This cluster benefits from being the location of a number of well renowned universities, research hospitals, and national research institutes.

This cluster is estimated to have the highest concentration of scientists per square mile.

Scientific organizations such as Stony Brook University and Brookhaven National Laboratory are playing an integral part in enhancing the stature of NY as a major bioscience hub. Other organizations such as Cold Spring Harbor and Feinstein Institute of Medical Research are also contributing in boosting the region’s biotech sector through their fundamental research and translation.

Currently, this region was one of the top 5 regions in terms of VC investments in the life science industry.

In just 6 months, the NY metro area received the highest amount of life science focused VC investments in the nation.

New Jersey alone has about 3,000 establishments in the biopharma sector.

Out of the top 20 pharmaceutical companies, at least 13 have a large presence in the Garden state.

Recently, 40% of the new drugs approved by the FDA originated from companies that either have their headquarters in NJ or have a strong footprint in this cluster.

This year alone, NJ employed over 77,000 employees that total an economic impact estimated to be over $30 billion.

Pharmaceutical research, medicinal manufacturing, and medical equipment manufacturing are the major sectors in the life science industry in this region.

NJ is home to Bristol Myers Squibb, Johnson and Johnson, and Merck. Major biopharma present in NY area are Celgene, Regeneron, Roche, and Pfizer.

Among all the regions, in the past few years NY has shown the strongest intent for growing their life science industry.

It has offered a 10-year tax break to incentivize new life science establishments and initiated projects such as expansion of its premier life science campus, the Alexandria Center for Life Science.

All these initiatives are sure to further enhance the life science industry in this region.

Maryland-Virginia biotechnology job cluster

2. Maryland, D.C., and Virginia cluster.

Over the past few decades the Maryland suburban area, combined with D.C., has developed a strong biotech cluster.

A major unique feature of this life science hotspot is its strong relation with federal and national labs.

In this area, innovation-based industries, including biotech and pharma, have benefitted a lot owing to their proximity to national research institutes which attract talent, act as a source of new innovation, and facilitate the translation of those novel technologies to industry.

Multiple major federal research institutes such as the National Institute of Health (NIH), Food & Drug Administration (FDA), and the Army Medical Research Institute are located within this cluster.

Besides these federal labs, this area also has several well-renowned academic institutions such as George Washington University, University of Maryland, George Mason University, and several other colleges.

The presence of these scientific research organizations has immensely helped the innovation in life science in this region.

As a result of all the innovation and academic research, this area received over $500 million in NIH funding in this year alone.

This area is reported to have over 1,600 life science oriented establishments, a large number of which are start-ups.

Biotechnology start-ups in this cluster managed to earn $154 million in VC funding in this year alone too.

Owing to the environment of innovation in this region, a vast majority of life science organizations belong to the biotech or drug development R&D subsection.

Other prominent sub-sectors that constitute a significant portion of the life science industry of the Maryland-D.C.-Virginia cluster include pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities and Medical/Diagnostic Testing Laboratories.

A number of promising innovative start-ups have developed in the Maryland-D.C-Virginia cluster over the past decade.

Companies such as RegenxBio, Glyomimetic, and MacroGenics are some of the local private companies that recently became publicly traded and owned entities, a sign of expansion and sustainability.

This area also contains larger pharmaceutical organizations such as MedImmune, Otsuka, and AstraZeneca.

Besides biopharma companies, the life science industry of this region is also home to medical device and diagnostics companies like Qiagen, Agilent Technologies, and Becton and Dickenson.

Seattle biotechnology job cluster

3. Seattle and Bellevue cluster.

The Seattle area of Washington State is considered the first of the second tier biotechnology clusters.

It is not as robust or well-established as the major locations, such as Boston or the San Francisco Bay Area, but it still has a healthy life science industry with a lot of potential of growth.

One advantage of this region is that the culture of innovation that is necessary for developing a life science industry is helped by the presence of other innovation-oriented companies such as Boeing, Microsoft, and Amazon.

The presence of some highly reputable research organizations also facilitated the growth of scientific research and innovation in the Seattle area.

Fundamental research conducted by The Institute for Systems Biology, Allen Institute for Brain Science, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and Seattle Children’s Hospital helped the growth of life science innovation.

Owing to the presence of these institutes, this region ranked in the top 10 in number of issued patents.

In spite of being relatively new and smaller in size, the Seattle-Bellevue hub has been consistently ranked in the top 10 in terms of attracting VC funding as well as NIH awards.

Companies in this cluster raised a total of $310 million this year alone, which was the sixth highest in the country.

The Seattle and Bellevue cluster also received over $890 million in NIH funding this year.

Although some large companies with headquarters in other states have a footprint in this region, the main driving force of this cluster are small and mid-sized companies.

Some of the noticeable members of Seattle’s life science sector are: Seattle Genetics, Juno therapeutics, Acucela, and Nanostring.

The small start-ups in this region have also been growing in stature through strategic partnerships and collaborations with larger established companies.

Juno Therapeutics entered into a 10-year collaboration with Celgene for immuno-oncology. Another local company, Nanostring, initiated a partnership with Merck to develop a novel test for predicting patient response to various anticancer therapies.

The Seattle-Bellevue cluster is home to a number of promising life science start-ups which are expected to attract more VC funding and are predicted to grow in size.

This makes the Seattle-Bellevue cluster one of the regions to watch out for over the next few years.

Life science clusters provide a unique environment for small and mid-sized companies to grow and succeed. These companies also provide a unique experience for PhDs to be exposed to a variety of roles and responsibilities which may not be accessible in “Big Pharma”, where job titles are more structured. PhDs should take advantage of the opportunity to gain new skills and further their industry experience by targeting companies within these clusters. Targeting companies in these biotechnology clusters is a fast and effective way to get hired into small to mid-level start-ups all the way through to larger pharmaceutical companies.

To learn more about the 3 life science clusters to search for a biotechnology job, 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.
  • Marvin D’Esprit

    This is terrific information, Arunodoy. It’s really a relief to know that PhD’s are going to have opportunities when it comes to landing that first great position.

    • Arunodoy Sur

      Thank you @marvindesprit:disqus. Opportunities in biotech, pharma and medical device industries are growing and more clusters are developing around the US. So new life science graduates who are prepared and know how to target the ideal jobs should be able to have to great career.

  • Kathy Azalea

    You guys at Cheeky Scientist are always so encouraging, Arunodoy. Even though we get bogged down in academics right now, you keep up the great flow of practical information. Thanks a zillion.

    • Arunodoy Sur

      Hi @KathyAzalea:disqus we try to provide information that will help someone like you remain aware of the current industry trends. Happy to know you found the article helpful. Thank you

  • Matthew Smithson PhD

    People just transitioning out of academia are likely to be bogged down by a ton of details, like moving out of the University area, wrapping up and defending their dissertations, networking, deciding on where to relocate and why, and trying to find the perfect job fit, which isn’t easy when there are so many choices all over the map and so many competing PhDs. These hubs provide so much opportunity that it’s great for you to take the time and spell it out. I’ll never forget the combination of nerves and excitement I had when I first forayed out of the academic atmosphere and got that first position. At that time, I didn’t have all the information that you’re giving here, but I got through it just fine. I just think it’s great that now, new PhDs don’t have to go it alone.

    • Arunodoy Sur

      Hi @matthewsmithsonphd:disqus As you mentioned it dealing with graduate school, research and job search can be very demanding so having information about where and how to look for jobs can be a key factor for success. We try to provide relevant information. Thank you for reading the article

  • Madeline Rosemary

    I’ve got to tell you that I never realized just how dense these clusters are. 3,000 establishments in NJ alone! It’s quite encouraging.

    • Arunodoy Sur

      Hi @madelinerosemary:disqus NJ area has a great concentration of pharmaceutical companies and they have been there for several decades. I feel NJ often gets overlooked because companies built on innovative biotech (gene therapy or CRISPR or immuno-oncology), which are mostly in California or Massachusetts get more attention.

  • Shawn Lyons

    Great advice and help! I’m currently looking and I added networking to my efforts because of reading Cheeky Scientist blogs. I never dreamed that there would be so many clusters where I can focus my search. Knowing both the location and the special needs of each cluster is going to be very helpful.

    • Arunodoy Sur

      Hi @ShawnLyonsPhD:disqus nice to know information you got from Cheeky Scientist has been helpful to you. As you rightly stated each cluster has some unique features and trends. Knowing those will improve your chances. Make sure to network with professionals located in your target region/companies.

  • Theo

    It really makes sense that organizations should cluster together like this. The world is getting pretty dense, and getting things streamlined is a priority. Nice that it coincidentally fits into my own master plan. 😉

    • Arunodoy Sur

      Hi @TheloniusJHolland:disqus developing a healthy biotech or pharma sector in any region takes a lot of time, investments and talented workforce. So they tend to be clustered. Good luck with your ” master plan” 🙂

  • Julian Holst

    It’s great that the NIH is investing heavily in research in all these clusters. One of the awesome responsibilities of working in these life science fields is that so many people are counting on us to unravel mysteries and come out with solid cures. It’s an exciting time to be alive.

    • Arunodoy Sur

      Hi @JulianholstUSA:disqus without fundamental research and investment in it an innovation dependent sector like life science will fail to grow. So, as you mentioned, this is essential for the health of this sector and to find solutions to healthcare challenges.

  • Carlie Stevenson, PhD

    One of the fun parts of having a PhD is that research is going on all over the world, and we can choose from so many locales. Also, the scientific community is connected via the Web, so it’s possible to network all over the world as well. I’m happy where I am, but one of the things I look forward to is striking out and moving up the ladder while experiencing different locations and cultures. Right here in the USA, we have incredible opportunities.

    • Arunodoy Sur

      Hi @CarlieStevensonPhD:disqus online connectivity has definitely brought everyone closer. Those looking for jobs should take advantage of this by developing network in their target region even when they are not physically present there.

  • Harvey Delano

    These are some great places to start concentrating efforts. I’m thinking it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to combine a great new position with proximity to Broadway.

    • Arunodoy Sur

      Hi @harveydelano:disqus yes, identifying the major clusters and targeting companies located there would be a good start for anyone who wishes to work in the industry. Proximity to Broadway is added bonus for NY cluster 🙂

  • Sonja Luther

    I think that my whole perspective is changing due to this material. There is way more opportunity out there than one could even imagine. I’ve always been good at networking and growing my own opportunities, and it’s really inspiring to know that the hard work will really pay off for those who are willing to expand their thinking and horizons.

    • Arunodoy Sur

      Hi @sonjaluther:disqus nice to know you are benefiting from this information. Networking will open up doors to more opportunities and you are doing the right thing. It will surely pay off in the future.