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Boston's Biomanufacturing Boom Spreading Across State: MassBio Report

As the life sciences industry continues to spread out from Boston, a wave of new biomanufacturing projects is coming to the Route 128, central and western Massachusetts areas. 

A rendering of the project at 25 Network Drive in Burlington, where Veritas signed on for lab, manufacturing and office space.

More than 1.7M SF of good manufacturing practices space is in the construction pipeline, with those projects being almost entirely outside of Boston and Cambridge, according to MassBio's 2022 Industry Snapshot. 

The report from the trade association, released Tuesday, found that as R&D space has boomed, there has been a steady increase in demand for more biomanufacturing space. This has made more investors and developers interested in pursuing these projects.

The biomanufacturing sector's employment in the state grew 15% from 2020 to 2021, according to the report. The research and development sector experienced 17.2% employment growth during that same period. The growth of both sectors led to a massive expansion of overall life sciences development, with 15M SF coming online in the state last year, a threefold increase from 2020.

"From the development side, the interest is that Massachusetts is a great place for biomanufacturing," said Ben Bradford, vice president of economic development and workforce at MassBio. "We have cutting-edge R&D here, the therapies that are being researched and developed in Massachusetts. That's great for other areas of the commonwealth because developers are building manufacturing sites on spec."

Venture capital investment is driving this geographic expansion, with 57% of funding through the first half of this year going to companies outside of Cambridge. That is up significantly from 2021 when 42% of investment went to non-Cambridge companies. 

CBRE Vice Chairman Jon Varholak said that in the Greater Boston market, 2021 was a record year, with over $12B in funding distributed to area companies.

"The big picture here is that despite the capital markets headwinds, we're still tracking to have a very impressive investment [year]," Varholak said. "It's not going to be the 2021 status, but it's still going to be certainly at pace if not even greater than what we saw in 2020."

Big Pharma companies and other large biotech firms have made major deals over the last year in markets that had historically been left out of the life sciences growth.

A rendering of King Street Properties' 45-acre biomanufacturing campus in Devens, Massachusetts.

Just last week, Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc. opened its 300K SF biomanufacturing facility in Plainville, one of many companies that has branched out to towns beyond the Boston and Cambridge clusters. 

Last year, Moderna signed one of the year's biggest biomanufacturing deals for a 236K SF facility in Norwood. ArrantaBio announced a 130K SF facility in Boxborough, and Vericel signed a lease for its new 125K SF headquarters and manufacturing facility on Network Drive in Burlington.

Although research and development labs still outpace cGMP facilities, the rapid development has created a steady increase in biomanufacturing space to create drugs and therapies.

"What we're seeing through the fruits of our labor and the growth of the market in general is that the R&D market has grown so much here that we are now seeing a consistent and much more steady need for pilot manufacturing," Varholak said.

In March, industry experts told Bisnow that biomanufacturing supply across the country was at a critical low, with companies scrambling to take any space they could find.

Given the amount of supply in the construction pipeline across Massachusetts, Bradford said he doesn't believe there will be enough demand to absorb all the development immediately, but he also said he doesn't think that is a bad thing.

“Do I think we'll have enough demand to fill up the space? I'm not sure. Do I think we need the space that's being added to the inventory? Yes, I do,” Bradford said. "I view a healthy ecosystem with maybe a little bit more vacancy and allowing the companies to take the space that they need rather than the space that is available at a given time."

As development persists, Bradford said he is confident in the path that the state is heading in terms of biomanufactuing development and investment.

"At the end of the day, the demand for development is being driven by industry," he said. "Companies want more space, companies need more space to put the capital they raise to work, and Massachusetts is doing a great job of providing that."