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With Multimillion-Dollar Acquisitions And Developments, Life Sciences To Boom In Montgomery County


The life sciences industry is seeing tremendous growth in Maryland, particularly in the D.C. suburb of Montgomery County. With nearly $6B invested in life sciences ventures in 2021 alone and more than 40,000 life sciences workers in the state, Montgomery County is the anchor of the fourth-largest biotech hub in the U.S.

The county’s life sciences market continues to expand its footprint with more biotech and pharmaceutical companies setting up shop in Rockville and other areas, drawn in by its skilled workforce. Also fueling the growth is the Montgomery County Economic Development Corp., which helps companies expand, relocate or start in the county. 

“We have the skilled labor force, the support of local universities, the Maryland Tech Council and a diverse population to help expand life sciences not only in Montgomery County but the state of Maryland,” MCEDC Senior Vice President of Business Development Brad Stewart said.

Stewart said that life sciences continues to boom in the region because of the high quality of life and top local schools helping to train the next generation of life sciences professionals. He added that many organizations in the area are committed to helping the industry grow, making Montgomery County a prime location for companies to be headquartered, he said. The proximity to the nation's capital also draws companies to the greater Washington region.

“We do our best to welcome companies here with open arms, from helping them find the ideal workforce, complying with building zones or getting them staffed up on time,” Stewart said. “According to a study from the Maryland Tech Council, the annual salary for life sciences jobs is almost double the average of statewide jobs. This is providing more economic empowerment as Maryland continues to rise as a top biohub.”

Major biotech deals in the county include Charles River Laboratories, a biopharmaceutical company providing preclinical, clinical, gene therapy and cell therapy service, which acquired Vigene Biosciences in 2021 for nearly $293M.

MCEDC played a role in facilitating this acquisition by helping CRL expand in Montgomery County, Stewart said. As CRL was looking to increase its capacity, it found Vigene was the perfect fit because it was a leading contract development and manufacturing organization that could provide viral vector-based gene therapy. 

“Vigene was a small CDMO but it was already growing rapidly,” Stewart said. “Vigene began its expansion to a new 52K SF facility in Rockville right before CRL stepped in. After CRL acquired them, they were able to grow their capacity exponentially and develop a global network.”

One of the key players involved in the Vigene acquisition was Jeffrey Hung, CEO of DiscerNMR, a company that creates affordable and accessible nuclear magnetic resonance or NMR-based diagnostic testing for patients and consumers. Before moving on to DiscerNMR, he was the chief commercial officer at Vigene and became a part of the contract development and manufacturing operations team at CRL after the acquisition. 

CRL’s key reason to acquire Vigene was to facilitate growth, and they found the brand complemented their own initiatives, Hung said.

“Vigene completes CRL's portfolio and service offerings of viral vectors and plasmid DNA CDMO,” he said. “Vigene's high-growth trajectory matches the same growth expectation of CRL. In addition, CRL's testing and animal model offerings can also benefit cell and gene therapy clients.”

The acquisition also enabled clients to “seamlessly conduct analytical testing, process development and manufacturing for advanced modalities with the same scientific partner,” according to a CRL press release. As a result, CRL has been able to speed up the process of safely manufacturing new therapies for clients. 

While there have been other life sciences acquisitions, Hung said that he believes that this deal started a chain reaction of growth and development of new life sciences sites that weren’t already present in Maryland, particularly for cell and gene therapy.

“The acquisition has a strong and positive impact on the life sciences industry in Maryland in that it anchors a global blue-chip life science company and to headquarter their center of excellence of gene therapy in the state of Maryland,” he said. “The CGT community will benefit CRL in providing a strong, educated workforce as well as access to other leading CGT companies.”  

Stewart expects more growth in the area thanks to local academic institutions such as Johns Hopkins University, Montgomery College and the University of Maryland, College Park. He added that outside of the schools, the county offers other resources that provide opportunities to students interested in the life sciences sector, and help companies identify top talent.

BioHub Maryland is an online platform that helps attract potential employees in the life sciences industry by connecting them to different Maryland universities, providing scholarships and grants, and work-study programs when they apply to biotechnology programs

“BioHub is an excellent way to scout job seekers who want to be in the life sciences industry,” Stewart said. “This is also a great online platform for life sciences companies to attract and retain talent in Maryland to expand its pipeline of workers in this industry.” 

Stewart is enthusiastic about how the life sciences industry continues to prosper in the state. He sees this not only as a way to diversify Maryland’s economy but also to provide more economic opportunities for the state on a global scale.

“With the biotech industry growing rapidly, the life sciences sector in Maryland will continue to be successful in the future,” he said. “From the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to the National Institutes of Health, we’re seeing some remarkable things happening in the industry. More companies from abroad want to invest in our region, which is helping us extend our life sciences footprint to a more global outlook.”

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

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

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