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How Montgomery County’s Talent Pool Gives It An Edge In The Life Sciences


Many factors go into making Montgomery County, Maryland, the "nation’s immunology capital," but people close to the life sciences industry here say the local workforce deserves most of the credit.

“The people of Montgomery County are part of an amazing culture,” said Lynne Stein Benzion, director of economic development for the Montgomery County Economic Development Corp. “People here in the county want to make a difference. They want to make the world a better place.”

The county is key to the BioHealth Capital Region encompassing Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. It is also an important part of the Washington, D.C./Baltimore life sciences cluster, one of the largest of its kind in the country, according to CBRE. Nearly 20 federal government agencies are headquartered in the county, including the National Institutes of Health, which includes the National Cancer Institute, along with the Food and Drug Administration.

Montgomery County is also home to nearly half of the 78 federal labs located in Maryland, and more than 300 bioscience companies have operations in the county, including REGENXBIO, TCR² Therapeutics and Novavax.

In 2020, bioscience companies in Montgomery County secured nearly $8B in funding to support the research and development of vaccines for Covid-19 as well as other life-saving medications and scientific advances. This further cemented the area’s stature as a hub for biotechnology work, particularly along the I-270 corridor.

With rising demand, Montgomery County is on track to have more than 1.5M SF of additional lab space built, with many more projects in planning stages. Recently, the county has taken steps to accelerate the approval process for new life sciences developments to keep up with industry demand. 

But it is more than building stock and proximity to big research institutions that entice these companies to locate in the county: Tens of thousands of highly educated life sciences professionals live in the area, with more arriving all the time.

“One of the reasons biotech company Lonza moved here is that they found it had easier access to the top talent compared to other regions,” said Nicholas Ostrout, a senior director of business strategy and implementation for Lonza, a Swiss chemicals and biotechnology multinational. “Of course, it's very competitive and there are people moving around all the time. But if we wanted to attract those people, we needed to be in the main corridor of where this industry is based.”

Lonza’s Rockville location specializes in cell and gene technology and provides a turnkey cell therapy manufacturing platform to other companies. This work requires the participation of a very select group of people.

“The main driver to being here is having access to top-level scientists and being plugged in directly to where they're living,” Ostrout said. “There are so many life sciences companies in the area, and if you're going to be competitive, you need to be right in the mix with everybody else. Even just getting a little outside of the city, you don’t quite get the level or number of people that you want.”

Benzion noted that 60% of adult residents in Montgomery County over the age of 25 hold a bachelor’s degree, while 32% have a master's degree or higher. That number is not surprising, considering Maryland has the second-highest concentration of STEM jobs in the country.

“We've spent 20 years growing the best concentration of cell and gene therapy expertise in the world,” she said. “We also have the biggest concentration of companies doing that work. They do their R&D, manufacturing and marketing here, and there are companies here to meet their particular requirements, such as building contractors.”

Benzion said keeping the talent pipeline flowing is a major priority. People finishing their doctorates are in high demand, but so are entry-level workers who have good foundations in the STEM disciplines.

She noted that Maryland has talent initiatives specific to biotech and a state life sciences advisory board has been working on making the Old Line State more attractive to players in this industry since 2007. She added that training programs in the county help prepare people to work in biotech.

“It's important to expand those programs to reach people who never considered working in biotechnology or life sciences before,” she said. “These are incredible jobs as well as a career path.”

Benzion said that the lab technology program at Montgomery College has a reputation for preparing its graduates for in-demand life sciences careers.

“Every student is spoken for by local companies right when they graduate,” she said.

Whether a biosciences company needs a lab technician or a department head, Ostrout said the county is an increasingly attractive place to live and work. Montgomery County’s diverse population increased 9.3% between 2010 and 2020, pushing it above 1 million for the first time.

“I love seeing all the investment in the county and it's really been great to watch it grow over the last 10 years,” Ostrout said. “It's become a lot more vibrant.”

To learn more about doing business in Montgomery County, reach out to

This article was produced in collaboration between Studio B and the Montgomery County Economic Development Corp. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.

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