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NYC Metro Leads Nation In Life Sciences Jobs, Companies Despite Dearth Of Labs, Report Finds

New York City leaders released a new report Thursday that touts the city and the surrounding region as the largest life sciences market in the country, with 30% more industry businesses and 32,000 more jobs than Boston.

A rendering of 125 West End Ave., a future Taconic life sciences project in New York City.

The report defines the Metro area as the city and 26 surrounding counties, stretching from New Haven, Connecticut, to Princeton, New Jersey, and including a large chunk of the Hudson Valley. 

“This report shows New York City is a powerhouse when it comes to growth of the life sciences sector, and our trajectory is even more promising with our partners nearby,” said Deputy Mayor for Economic and Workforce Development Maria Torres-Springer in a statement. “Working with New Jersey and Connecticut, we can grow jobs more quickly, attract record public and private funding, and ensure companies of all sizes have the flexible space needed to grow and thrive here.”

Co-written by the New York City Economic Development Corp. and the Department of City Planning, the report, Life Science in the New York Metro, argues that the region’s expansive ecosystem of life sciences and life sciences-adjacent jobs — 150,000 jobs and nearly 5,100 businesses — and significant growth in related industries, such as healthcare and tech, make the metro region a natural fit for more industry expansion.

With 7% of the nation’s population, the region houses 10% of U.S. biochemists and biophysicists and 12% of U.S. chemists, the report finds, citing Bureau of Labor Statistics data. The metro area also has 83,000 life sciences workers in specialized occupations, the largest such concentration in the nation, the report claims — though just over one-third are directly employed by life sciences companies.  

“Despite recent challenges in the public markets, the life sciences sector in NYC continues to grow at a tremendous rate, and 2022 should surpass 2021’s record-setting leasing year,” CBRE Senior Vice President David Stockel said in a statement released in conjunction with the report. “Moreover, NYC has seen a continued influx of top tier life sciences developers in the market — further validating New York City as a leading life sciences market.”  

But it’s also true that, relative to its population and economic size, the region still lags behind in terms of life sciences real estate and lab development. Cushman & Wakefield’s 2022 Q1 Life Sciences report, which lists New York City and New Jersey as separate markets, notes strong growth in both markets, especially New York City, which saw venture capital funds more than double to $6.2B last year and the pipeline of new lab space grow to 2.6M SF over the next five years.

But even combined, the total lab space for both markets, 17.3M SF, still falls far below Boston’s 25.1M SF.

The report puts numbers to both the region’s potential, and an issue plaguing the region’s life sciences hubs; proximity to a massive underlying economic engine but not yet enough collaboration across states, municipalities and different sectors. Experts told Bisnow that while there are bright signs in the region and significant growth, it’s still very early in the market’s maturation, and the city needs to see more growth to really activate the entire region. 

“I don’t think the collaboration is organized, but it’s happening organically,” Taconic Partners Executive Vice President Matt Weir, whose firm has developed a handful of life sciences projects in the city, told Bisnow.

The report is a sign that more collaboration is happening — the press release runs seven pages and includes statements not only from New York City Mayor Eric Adams and members of his administration, but also from three borough presidents, county officials from Suffolk and Westchester, and state officials from New Jersey and Connecticut. 

The city needs those jurisdictions to measure itself above Boston and San Francisco — while the report shows the region produced more life sciences doctoral graduates than runners-up Los Angeles and Boston between 2016 and 2020, the city's institutions produced just 44% of those degrees.