Research workforce expected to ‘remain stable’

By | June 5, 2023

The nations life science research workforce is expected to remain stable this year rather than shrink as is the broader technology sector and overall US employment, after outpacing the overall US economy last year as a has done for the past 20 years, according to a report by commercial real estate firm CBRE concluded.

The report, US Life Sciences Research Talent 2023, released yesterday in conjunction with the 2023 BIO International Convention held in Boston by the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, found that the US life sciences research workforce grew in 2022 to a record high of 545,000 people. That figure is almost double (87%) from the nearly 300,000 reported in 2002 and up 3.1% from 2021, year-over-year growth reflecting employer demand for life sciences research employees .

Demand for life sciences researchers is above pre-pandemic levels, Matt Gardner, CBRE’s advisory services leader for life sciences, said in a statement. We’re also seeing a closely balanced relationship between hiring and job cuts in the biopharma industry versus the tech sector and the broader economy, which positions life sciences to remain stable despite an economic downturn.

Over the past two decades, the number of life sciences researchers has never declined despite the economy plummeting and then recovering from three recessions, although an economic slowdown could change that dynamic, the report adds.

Talk with JAN earlier this year, Gardner acknowledged a slowdown in life sciences activity since financial markets turned bearish two years ago, especially for smaller biotechs, but added the sector was far from be in retreat.

If you were to ask those who are the financial stakeholders in life sciences, they are making fewer decisions. They’re making them slower,” Gardner said. “A small-cap public company would be hard-pressed to raise a subsequent offering on Wall Street right now, and debt would be harder to obtain than it was in the fourth quarter of 2021.

What that meant for us is that, if you take the viewpoint of the early-stage life sciences society, there are still deals to be made and there is still science to progress, Gardner added.

The 25 main regional markets

CBRE also released a ranking of the top 25 regional markets for life sciences research talent. Unsurprisingly, three established clusters top the charts Boston and neighboring Cambridge, MA, followed by the San Francisco Bay Area, then Washington, DC/Baltimore.

Maxim Boston/Cambridge JAN Nationally recognized A-List of Top 10 US Biopharma Clusters, which is based not only on workforce size, but additional criteria such as NIH, grants, venture capital funding, lab space inventory, and number of patents . [An updated list will be published later this year.] San Francisco is second, while Washington, DC/Baltimore anchors the BioHealth Capital Region of Maryland, Virginia, and the nation’s capital, which ranks fourth for JANand has long been positioned with the slogan Top 3 by 2023.

Rounding out the CBRE top 10, New York/New Jersey ranks fourth, followed by San Diego, Philadelphia, Raleigh/Durham, Los Angeles/Orange County, Seattle and Denver/Boulder, CO. Philadelphia and Denver/Boulder had the best year: Year-over-year improvement in 2022 (from 8th and 11ththrespectively), as well as Sacramento (ranked 15thcompared to 17th) and Miami/Fort Lauderdale (20th), who didn’t make the top 25 last year.

CBRE’s rankings consisted of a score measured by the total number of researchers and graduates with life sciences experience and talent density, defined as the number of researchers, graduates, and people employed in professional, scientific, and technical services per capita.

Fastest growing regions

Between 2017 and 2022, 10thDenver/Boulder and three emerging regions not usually ranked as top bioclusters experienced the fastest growth in their total number of life sciences researchers. Denver/Boulders’ 35% increase was eclipsed only by 14th-place Atlanta (36%), while 19th-place Dallas/Fort Worth, TX and Phoenix (which ranked outside the top 25) both had tied for growth of 33%, more than double the national average over that time period of 16%.

Phoenix also produced the fastest growth rate of new life sciences graduates, with 2,000 graduates reported for 2021, up 91% from 2016. Additionally, the regions that produced the most graduates in specialized fields these were Washington DC/Baltimore (582 biotechnology graduates) and the Bay Area (877 cellular/cell biology and anatomical science graduates).

A key factor in the researcher growth shown by those regions has been the presence of numerous research and higher education institutions in each, according to CBRE.

Also according to the report, the number of digital and analytical roles has more than doubled, growing 101% in the past five years, a leap that reflects advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning. In contrast, the number of chemists decreased by 1.2%, compared with an 11.1% increase in the number of biology-based researchers.


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