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In Delaware, Life Sciences Companies Find A Supportive Home To Work And Grow

Headquartered in Wilmington, Delaware, Incyte was founded there in 2002 by a team of research scientists, chemists and biologists working in oncology, inflammation and autoimmunity. Today, the global biopharmaceutical company employs over 2,000 people in operations in North America, Europe and Asia.

The life sciences market is one of the hottest in the world. The global life sciences analytics market size was estimated at $7.7B in 2020, is expected to reach $8.3B in 2021 and then grow by 7.8% annually until 2028.

One U.S. state that has made a name for itself as a top location for established and burgeoning life sciences talent alike is Delaware. 

Delaware is already known for being a leader in chemical innovation thanks to companies like DuPont, which was established in the state more than 200 years ago. According to a new report, “Life Sciences in Delaware: Momentum and Opportunity,” 1 out of 6 U.S. pharmaceutical employees work in the region, the state's life sciences sector employs approximately 11,000 people and directly generates at least $2B in GDP annually. The number of life sciences firms in Delaware has risen by 80% in the past 10 years. 

In addition, Delaware’s biotech research and development workforce concentration is more than one-and-a-half times the national average, and science companies that choose the First State for their home have access to a wide talent pool thanks to several nearby colleges and universities. The number of associates degrees or higher in the life sciences awarded by Delaware institutions has grown by 64% since 2010. 

Late last year, the state piloted the Delaware Lab Space Grant Program. The program is designed to spur private sector-led projects that will boost science and tech companies that choose Delaware with increased capacity for ready-to-go lab space, according to the Delaware Prosperity Partnership.

The program was spurred by a Delaware Prosperity Partnership survey of 60 Delaware science-sector organizations, which revealed that roughly a dozen of the respondents identified a need for at least 150K SF of lab space over the next few years.

Bisnow recently spoke to science and technology leaders whose companies operate out of Delaware about why they chose the state and how it has impacted their business. 

Erica Nemser, the CEO of Compact Membrane Systems, which creates technology to capture and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, said that the company was drawn to Delaware thanks to its well-established history as a chemical powerhouse. 

“CMS is a high-growth, advanced materials company,” Nemser said. “Delaware's history at the heart of the chemicals industry makes it the right spot for materials innovation and the great chemistry, chemical engineering and energy industry talent that we seek.”

Nemser added that CMS is planning to expand its team in Delaware, bringing in new scientific staff and commercial leaders. 

Franchessa Sayler, CEO of ThruPore Technologies, which is working on a new material that can be applied to an air filter to kill airborne viruses and bacteria, said that she was inspired to move the company’s labs to Delaware to be closer to the talent. 

“What really made us make the decision to completely relocate our labs to Delaware is the people,” Sayler said. “Honestly, it is just amazing having so many experts in so many different fields in the area. You can’t get those connections anywhere else.” 

ThruPore, which received the first Delaware Lab Space Grant, recently signed a lease with Emory Hill to rent the former Delaware Department of Labor building. Sayler said the company plans to renovate half the building and turn it into lab space.

ThruPore relocated from Alabama, and Sayler said her employees are excited for the opportunity to move to Delaware and be closer to experts in their field and to visit the Hagley Museum, which highlights the history of DuPont. 

Being in Delaware can give a company a leg up over the competition, said Paula Swain, the executive vice president of human resources for Incyte, a drug discovery and development company. Her company is able to truly stand out in Delaware, rather than blend into the throngs of other biotech companies in cities like San Francisco or Boston, and it has support from local government. 

“In Delaware, you have access to your elected officials,” Swain said. “The governor checks in, as do our state senators, our state representatives, they really are helping us flourish here. They ask ‘What would be helpful to you? How are you going to continue to expand?’ We have access to people in the community that have helped us continue to grow.” 

Incyte’s portfolio of medicines stretches across oncology, inflammation and autoimmunity. Its team is working on a clinical trial for a drug that treats the skin condition vitiligo, and it recently received Food and Drug Administration approval on both a new drug that treats a rare type of cancer and the first and only atopic dermatitis treatment of its kind.

The company currently has a two-building campus in Wilmington, and it is building a third that is expected to be completed by December. The Incyte team is also in talks to purchase the Wilmington Friends Lower School to expand even more in the state and hopefully bring its entire team from Pennsylvania to Delaware in the next few years. 

“I think Delaware is a great place to grow business,” Swain said. “We have beautiful beaches in Delaware, you're close to Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., New York. It's sort of this perfect place where you feel like you're living on the East Coast, but you aren't necessarily having all the hustle and bustle that you have in some of the bigger cities.”

For more information about Delaware's life sciences sector, email Susan Coulby to request a copy of DPP's latest report "Life Sciences in Delaware: Momentum and Opportunity." 

This article was produced in collaboration between the Delaware Prosperity Partnership and Studio B. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.

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