Contact Us
News

An 'Ecosystem' Has Propelled NYC Life Sciences Over The Past 5 Years

New York City’s budding life sciences sector is enjoying a holistic life sciences ecosystem, key players in the public and private sector say.

The private and public focus on creating a space conducive to innovation and new discovery over the past decade has propelled the sector and helped retain business, technology and scientific research talent, New York City Economic Development Corporation Senior Vice President for Life Sciences and Healthcare Doug Thiede said on a Bisnow webinar Tuesday. 

“We were a net exporter of ideas a few years ago,” he said. “Now [companies] have the ability to stay at all stages of growth, which is really exciting.”

Through a combination of policy, grants, government programs and strategic investment, the city, state and private sector created a “stickiness” that has helped match New York City’s biotech talent with adequate space for medical research and development, Thiede said.

“There’s been a ton of momentum, the stickiness factor is important,” he said.  “We’re really excited about the intersection of that stickiness, and the programming and the talent are really going to be important in trying to drive this economy forward.” 

Thiede was joined by Deerfield Management Chief Partnerships and Communications Officer Karen Heidelberger, Empire State Development Senior Director Loretta Beine and Hubbard & Reed partner and co-Chair of the Life Sciences Group Patrice Jean on the webinar. 

“We have absolutely fabulous scientists in New York, but what we didn’t have for a really long time was talent development. We had big pharma companies, but you didn’t have the startup mentality,” Heidelberger said.

“It is a different mindset and it is a different risk tolerance level, and if you’re not able to make that switch, you have to be able to grow your own, and there are tremendous efforts going on here now that actually take that into account,” she said. 

There has also been an infusion of private venture capital investment in the sector and increased federal funding, the speakers said.

In 2015, the National Institutes of Health funneled $1.5B into the sector in New York City, last year it allocated $2B, Thiede said. Venture capital funding in the city’s life sciences sector has skyrocketed. In 2015, the sector was receiving $150M, last year it received around $1B, he said. 

Clockwise from top left: Hubbard & Reed partner and co-Chair of the Life Sciences Group Patrice Jean Hughes, Deerfield Management Chief Partnerships & Communications Officer Karen Heidelberger, Empire State Development Senior Director Loretta Beine, New York City Economic Development Corp. Senior Vice President for Life Sciences and Healthcare Doug Thiede

“You are seeing more and more people who want to stay in the New York area, so when you have the space you have the mindset and you have the dollars to be able to sink into the different opportunities in here,” Heidelberger said.

There has been more collaboration across some of New York’s key sectors that make its life sciences ecosystem unique, Thiede said.

“Being able to get folks in finance, get folks in technology that are already able to cross over where they couldn’t four, five, 10 years ago, I think that is why you are starting to see people in New York City and the greater metro area,” he said.

NYC's life sciences sector has been dubbed a “bright spot” amid the pandemic as construction, leasing activity and funding has remained steady throughout the crisis. 

At the peak of the coronavirus pandemic in New York, the city collaborated with the sector to produce and distribute personal protective equipment. The two sectors continue to work together to prepare for a possible resurgence, Thiede said in a follow-up interview with Bisnow Thursday. 

The pandemic has reaffirmed the importance of the sector to New York City, he said. 

“I would say what COVID has certainly validated is that this is an industry that is massively important to New York City in pandemic times and non-pandemic times,” he said on Thursday.