Unabated Demand for Life Science Space in Boston Fueled by Increasing Funding and Deep Talent Pool

Steve Purpura

Boston– According to CBRE’s new Boston Life Sciences report, after a decade of unstoppable growth in Cambridge resulting in a 1.5% vacancy rate, new life science clusters are emerging in the Greater Boston region as life sciences tenants expand their footprint from the region’s core. Over 500 life sciences and biotechnology companies are based in Boston and Cambridge with over 100 more in the suburbs. These companies reside in 30 million sq. ft. of lab space with over 4 million sq. ft. of space in the development pipeline.

Future developments are underway in rezoned stretches of West Cambridge, across the City of Boston, in the dense near-in suburbs of Somerville and Watertown, and in the office parks of Waltham, Lexington, Wakefield, Bedford and Burlington.

“Kendall Square is at the epicenter of the explosion of genomics-based research in the life sciences industry and the repercussions are being felt in a significant way across Greater Boston,” said Steve Purpura, vice chairman leading CBRE’s Life Sciences business. “While we expect continued growth in all submarkets, the Seaport District – now anchored by large, mature life science firms – is the fastest growing urban life science cluster in the country and is particularly well positioned for significant future growth.”

The long runway to profitability for new biotechnology and life sciences companies requires significant investment and subsidization to fund years of research and development. Boston and its suburbs saw 22% uninterrupted growth in funding from the National Institutes of Health from 2015 to 2019. Cambridge’s venture capital funding stream increased 471% from $595.2 million in 2010-2012 to $3.4 billion in 2017-2019.

With life sciences firmly rooted in the eastern Massachusetts economy, a $473 million renewal of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Initiative in 2018 is focused on workforce development, public school education, and encouraging geographic dispersion of life sciences activity to regions in central and western Massachusetts. An additional $150 million has been made available for tax credits tied to new hiring.

Total life sciences employment in Suffolk, Middlesex and Norfolk Counties has grown to nearly 90,000 jobs since 2001. The life sciences industry’s annual growth rate from 2010 to Q2 2019 averaged 4%, outpacing the overall private employment growth rate of 2%.

Kendall Square remains the next frontier of biotech innovation as the life sciences begin to converge with the emergent field of artificial intelligence. Over 2,000 master’s and Ph.D. candidates are currently enrolled in the region’s top universities in degree programs that could translate to careers in artificial intelligence and machine learning.