by Brian Duffy
The novel therapies startup market has developed a need for small to midscale pre-clinical, clinical, and cGMP manufacturing cleanroom space. Many of these life-saving therapeutics are against the clock to build manufacturing space and search for alternatives that will improve speed to market. This market has also seen an influx of capital investment. According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, Boston leads the market with a combined $12.9 billion in funding collected in the last five years, and conversion of existing properties has become a focus of manufacturing companies and developers alike.
Before the COVID-19 outbreak, there was a growing investment in novel therapy startups (cell and gene therapy, mRNA, etc.). As reported by Pitchbook, the North American life sciences investment total includes a record $37 billion of private equity and $33 billion of public investment in 2020 alone, showing a 93% increase from the previous record investment received in 2018.
The realization of the benefits of novel therapies therapeutics and proof of concept that the recent vaccines offer have only fueled the market. Many of these startups are now entering later stages of development and require cleanroom manufacturing space for production of their products. The current demand for such space has outpaced the market, and therefore, companies are looking for creative solutions to meet that need. However, the requirements of cleanroom spaces are not ideally suited for most office buildings, so further analysis of a property design is needed.
The market pressures that drive the final property selection are building suitability, proximity to trained human resources, and transportation.
- Building suitability: Cleanroom space requires gray space for mechanical/electrical services (Think high ceilings.). Warehousing, supporting labs, and administrative areas will need a home as well.
- Proximity to trained human resources: The market is incredibly competitive right now, and Boston provides a substantial labor pool. The U.S. Bureau of Labor reports that at year-end, 2019, the national average of the population over 25 with a bachelor’s degree was 33.1%, while Boston came in at approximately 49%. EMSI states that Boston also has the highest annual graduate population with degrees relevant to the biotech industry.
- Transportation: New bubble markets are developing outside of conventional hubs. Some startups in urban college neighborhoods leverage mass transportation. As these companies grow to require larger-scale locations they seek properties that can continue to offer the benefit of mass transit.
To meet the needs of the current market of budding therapeutic technologies, the real estate, design, and construction industries are working in nontraditional ways. With the promise that many of these technologies have to resolve unmet medical challenges, there is great value in creating new ways to complete these projects sooner than was ever possible. These changes will result in a new landscape for workspace, development, and medicine.
Brian Duffy is the senior director of architecture & engineering at DPS Group.