Guest Column | October 10, 2022

Why Greater Philadelphia Ranks #2 As CGT Hub

By Claire Greenwood, Executive Director and Senior Vice President of Economic Competitiveness, and Sarah Steltz, Vice President, Economic Competitiveness, The Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia


Four years ago, Greater Philadelphia launched a multiyear initiative to support our region’s rapidly growing cell and gene therapy ecosystem. Eleven partner organizations, including preeminent research institutions and major corporations, joined with the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia to form the Cell and Gene Therapy Initiative to be catalysts for advancing our region as a geographic center for research, talent, capital, and companies in the cell and gene therapy sector.

We knew these efforts would be welcoming to researchers, emerging and established companies, private and public funders, entrepreneurs, site selectors, and developers. And they have been. Since 2019, the number of cell and gene therapy companies that call Greater Philadelphia home has grown from 30 to 55. The discovery coming out of our region is attracting record-breaking venture capital investment. The region is now the leader in NIH funding for cell and gene projects. And in its just released 2022 Life Sciences Outlook, JLL ranks Philadelphia #5 up from #9 last year on its list of top life sciences clusters, noting our region is “home to a deep and growing pool of talent coming from the region’s strong universities.”

Our efforts have also spawned the formation of the Life Science Talent Pipeline Collaborative, an employer-led group creating innovative solutions to meet the growing and future talent needs in the industry. The convening of this group supported the development of the Biomedical Technician Training Program: Aseptic Manufacturing, a first-of-its-kind collaboration between The Wistar Institute, West Philadelphia Skills Initiative, Iovance Biotherapeutics, Philadelphia Works, PIDC, and The Chamber to create a new workforce development training model to connect biotech jobs with a wider range of Philadelphians. We also recently developed the Greater Philadelphia: Discovery Starts Here animation, which shows how our cell and gene therapy ecosystem has evolved out of the region’s world-class research institutions – Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Temple University, Thomas Jefferson University, University of Pennsylvania, and The Wistar Institute –  to form a number of the local cell and gene therapy companies that have licensed technologies or have spun out of them.

Regularly, we have taken time to evaluate our efforts and results. Most recently, we commissioned a study conducted by Econsult Solutions, Inc, The State of Cell and Gene Therapy in the Greater Philadelphia Region: A Comparative Analysis. The study analyzed the factors that make Greater Philadelphia a leading cell and gene therapy hub, comparing the region to 14 other U.S. metros – Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, New York, Research Triangle, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington D.C. – in areas including research infrastructure, human capital, innovation output, commercial activity, and value proposition.

These assets aggregate to rank Greater Philadelphia as the #2 cell and gene therapy hub, behind only Boston. It is another solid affirmation of the rich life sciences assets throughout our region. We’re excited for what it means for those who are doing this life-improving and life-saving work, benefiting patients who are connected to every cell or gene therapy trial and the inspiration behind every new lab.

Some of the highlights that make us #2 include:

  • The region’s institutions and reputation for output have earned Greater Philadelphia at least $1 billion in NIH funding every year for the past five years. The cell and gene therapy sector in particular has received $317 million in NIH funding since 2018. Out of the 14 comparative regions, Greater Philadelphia leads all others in total funding for projects related to cell and gene therapy.
  • Greater Philadelphia’s research infrastructure includes both Tier I universities and world-renowned research hospitals, including three Tier I universities within city limits, which is more than any other major U.S. city, aside from New York. These institutions, along with the 93 colleges and universities in the region (more than Boston, San Francisco, and Washington D.C.), and a concentration of distinguished hospitals are crucial to the region’s attraction of students and their retention post-graduation.
  • More than 450,000 students attend institutions in the Greater Philadelphia region, and 54% of alumni from regional institutions choose to stay local upon graduation. This is a retention rate that is 12% greater than Boston’s. Out of these graduates, Greater Philadelphia is producing the fourth-highest number of graduates that have cell and gene therapy skills. When comparing the number of employees in pharmaceutical manufacturing, Greater Philadelphia ranks fourth with 15,471 employees, behind Chicago, San Francisco, and New York.
  • Greater Philadelphia excels in innovation output. Apart from its reputation as the birthplace of cell and gene therapy, earning the region the first FDA-approved gene therapy (Luxturna®) and cell therapy (Kymriah®), Greater Philadelphia has the fourth-greatest number of patents in cell or gene therapy (302 patents) and the fourth-greatest number of cell or gene therapy clinical trials from 2012-2022 (130 trials).
  • Greater Philadelphia is highly accessible. The region’s unique location on the East Coast provides convenient travel to New York City, Washington D.C., Baltimore, and Boston all within driving distance. With this proximity, the supply chain for cell and gene therapies can be streamlined. This is supported by Greater Philadelphia’s cold storage facilities, without which cell and gene therapies would not be able to be easily transported.
  • The Philadelphia International Airport, just a 20-minute drive or 25-minute train ride from Philadelphia’s city center, is equipped with advanced temperature-controlled shipping technology, crucial to the cell and gene therapy supply chain. The airport is home to a 24,000 square foot refrigerator facility, designated specifically for pharmaceutical use. The airport is also expected to expand its cargo facility by 137 acres in the coming years, increasing the region’s accessibility and ability to deliver products and treatments.
  • The success and growth potential of the region translates to $4.2 billion invested in cell and gene therapy from 2018 to 2022 – the third largest amount out of the 14 metros. The growth potential of the region is exacerbated by the amount of total venture capital that has increased over the last five years, hitting a record of $8.1 billion in 2022. This investment is a 299% increase from 2022. This year alone Greater Philadelphia has already seen $2.1 billion in venture capital funding invested into the region, which has increased by 71% from the first quarter of 2021.
  • Not only are these amounts significant and increasing by the year, but investments can also stretch further in Greater Philadelphia due to the region’s value proposition. The regional price parity is based on the average price of $100 for goods and services at the national level. For Greater Philadelphia, the cost of goods is 2.25% higher than the national average, which is only relatively more expensive than four of the 14 metros: Cleveland, Indianapolis, Research Triangle, and Houston.
  • This translates to a great quality of life for those living and working in Greater Philadelphia, and it benefits companies looking to relocate, expand, or start their businesses in the region. Rent per square foot in Philadelphia comes in at $58, which is less than New York City (by more than 50%), Boston, San Francisco, San Diego, and Seattle and makes lab and office space more affordable.

All this progress in just three and a half years is astounding, particularly since these advances will further the fight against life threatening diseases and conditions. This is progress that we all can be proud of.

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About the Authors

Claire Greenwood leads the Chamber’s economic development strategy including sector specific efforts to attract and expand companies, capital, and talent to Greater Philadelphia.

Sarah Steltz manages talent development and retention initiatives for the Chamber, collaborating with stakeholders on initiatives such as the region’s Life Science Talent Pipeline Collaborative, to ensure Greater Philadelphia benefits from an educated, skilled workforce.