From The Editor | May 30, 2024

New Report Solidifies Greater Philadelphia Region as Global CGT Leader


By Erin Harris, Editor-In-Chief, Cell & Gene
Follow Me On Twitter @ErinHarris_1

Cities of philadelphia on map-GettyImages-171592137

The Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia recently released a new report, “Leading the Way: Cell and Gene Therapy in Greater Philadelphia,” a sector snapshot commissioned by the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia and conducted by Ninigret Partners LLC. The report is stacked with impressive stats about cell and gene therapy progress in the Greater Philadelphia Region, focusing specifically on developments over the last five-plus years.  Among other industry-leading stats, the report shares the Greater Philadelphia Region is the (national/international) leader in translational science, and a Top 5 location for Phase I and II trials in both novel cell and gene therapies and is now home to 60 of the estimated 500 CGT companies worldwide (more than 10%), including five of the Top 100 “Companies to Watch.”

Indeed, the report is well worth your time to learn about the innovation taking place in the Greater Philadelphia Region, as it is the hub for cell and gene therapy. I caught up with Claire Greenwood, Executive Director, CEO Council for Growth and Senior Vice President of Economic Competitiveness at The Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia, to take a deeper dive into the report’s findings and what they mean for the future of CGT and the patient journey.

1. What is your overall take on the findings in this sector snapshot?

With more than 7,000 individuals employed by cell and gene industry companies and institutions in the region, Greater Philadelphia’s value proposition for CGT and biotech companies overall has strengthened significantly. The region already has captured more than 10% of CGT industry companies worldwide and is now poised to capture more of the economic impact and associated jobs in what will continue to grow as one of the key technology sectors of the 21st century economy. This sector snapshot exemplifies the impact of one specific industry's success on the entire regional economy and provides a lens to project future sectors economic potential.

2. Based on the findings of this report, how might mRNA research and therapeutics advance in the Greater Philadelphia Region in the next few years? 

In creating this report, the Knight Foundation and our team interviewed countless CGT industry leaders, and the following quote from Dr. Saar Gill, MD, PhD, the Scientific Co-Director, Cell Therapy and Transplant Program at Penn Medicine says it well- “The greater Philadelphia region has already played a consequential role on the global cell and gene therapy stage, as measured by output from academic labs, biotechs, and big pharma. There is every indication that this will continue, with Philadelphia being one of the leading epicenters for innovation in this space. I base this conviction on my observation of the next generation of researchers who are being trained right now, as well as the steady pace of new company creation, licensing, and other ventures. These efforts will continue to lead to clinical trials in humans with otherwise intractable diseases where cell and gene therapy can play a particularly important role.”

3. Why is the Greater Philadelphia Region a lucrative location for CGT talent? 

Greater Philadelphia has historically played a pivotal role as an intellectual leader in biotechnology research, particularly in cell and gene therapy technologies. The combination of research excellence, talent availability, private investment, and critical infrastructure positions Philadelphia as a top global hub for cell and gene therapy innovation and development.  These assets drive talent attraction, investment in institutions and companies, and increased development of real estate to fuel the industry’s growth. Highlights of the CGT industry’s regional impact include:

  • $8 billion of capital flowing into Greater Philadelphia’s CGT sector since 2018.
  • The Greater Philadelphia region has received more than $362 million in cell and gene therapy NIH funding since 2019.
  • Lab space square footage in the City of Philadelphia (current and in development) has more than tripled since 2019.

4. How does academia in the Greater Philadelphia Region aid the R&D of cell and gene therapies compared to other academic hubs?

Since 2019, institutions in Philadelphia have secured the second highest number of NIH-funded projects in cell and gene therapy (CGT). One factor that support the industry’s success is Greater Philadelphia being home to many top-tier institutions that provide a magnet for human capital, research grants, and corporate partnerships. Notably, the University of Pennsylvania stands out with the highest number of CGT projects overall. Additionally, the university holds a remarkable position as the global leader in CAR-T (Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-cell) patents, boasting 134 patents. This impressive figure is more than double the number of patents held by the next largest patent holder. 

5. Explain how the report’s findings ultimately impact the patient journey.

Being a major center for translational research means that Greater Philadelphia is at the forefront of developing new therapies. Researchers here are actively working on innovative treatments, which can directly benefit patients. Additionally, the region remains a major center for bench- to- bedside translational research, with the City of Philadelphia being a top 4 location for upcoming novel Cell and Gene Therapy product trials. This projection is based on early phase 1 and phase 2 trials in recruitment to estimate future levels of trials activity. This momentum illustrates how the region’s status as a global hub for CGT both influences and accelerates novel Cell and Gene Therapy product trials’ success.

6. One of the biggest issues facing the patient is geographical access to trial sites, Centers of Excellence, etc. that offer the CGT therapies they need. In what ways does the Greater Philadelphia Region ease the patient burden when it comes to geographical access to care?

Access is so much of the challenge, and having the concentrations of leading institutions here as well as the diverse population base has made building out the networks to support patient care much more possible. But it’s more than geography: it’s equally dependent on the coordination and administration of care. The Greater Philadelphia area is at the forefront of supporting the transition from trials to models of care and supporting reimbursement. In part continued growth in the industry is dependent on finding models of care and reimbursement that make sense given the expense of these advanced therapeutics and approaches. Independence Blue Cross created the Advanced Network for Gene-Based Therapeutics in 2023 to provide patient access and develop the appropriate care tools for these new technologies. Cencora, formerly Amerisource Bergen, launched the CGT Integration Hub, which provides a technology platform that links across patient care settings to payment eligibility through the supply chain on potential delivery dates of the therapeutics to facilitate patient scheduling.