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Why new Boston development projects all seem to include space for life-sciences labs: Business is booming

Chart showing rapid growth in biotech job postings for the Boston area

A new report from the BPDA says that what is already the nation's largest biotech region keeps adding jobs, which is why the industry has exploded out of Kendall Square across the river and down the Charles.

The pandemic only added to that - work on all three of the approved vaccines in the US was done in the Boston area and other companies pivoted to Covid-19 research, at a time when workers in other sectors were staying away from their shuttered offices.

According to MassBio, 2020 was a record year for Life Science venture capital funding in the Commonwealth--raising $5.8 billion dollars.

The BPDA adds:

Employment in the Life Sciences has been particularly resilient in the past year, despite the high rates of unemployment in many other sectors. This has helped insulate Boston’s workforce and economy which has a growing Life Science sector. According to CBRE, the Boston-Cambridge area is the largest Life Science cluster in the nation. The Boston-Cambridge area benefits from a highly educated workforce and world-renowned higher education, research, and medical institutions. ...

Biotech job postings in Boston have been on the rise. Burning Glass Technologies, which collects data on job listings posted on major job boards and company websites, defines biotech jobs as those requiring knowledge of scientific fields such as biochemistry and genetics, laboratory techniques such as chromatography and clinical research, and/or experience with technology that incorporates biological processes such as biosensors and bio-chips. According to Burning Glass data, Boston saw its highest ever number of biotech job postings in 2020, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, with over 21,500 job postings.


Overall, 3.1 percent of employment in Massachusetts is in the Life Sciences, compared to just 1 percent for the nation as a whole. Life Sciences employment in Massachusetts has grown by 42 percent since 2010, reaching 96,064 workers in Q2 2020. ...

In Cambridge, 22 percent of all employment is in the Life Science industry, 19 times the nation’s share of Life Science employment. Life Sciences employment grew by 83 percent in Cambridge since 2010, reaching 28,731 in Q2 2020.

Comparatively, Boston has a more diverse economy with approximately 3 percent of all employment in the Life Science industry. Life Science employment grew by 38 percent in Boston since 2010, reaching 16,149 in Q2 2020.6 Scientific Research and Development Services made up 66 percent and hospitals made up 26 percent of Life Sciences employment in Boston in 2020. Pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing makes up only 3 percent of Life Sciences employment in Boston, but 9 percent of Life Sciences employment in Massachusetts in 2020.

Life-sciences workers are more likely to be foreign born, female, have an advance degree and use public transit to get to work than workers in other Boston-area sectors, the report says.

One stat in the report suggests that the Seaport model - mixing life-sciences buildings with luxury apartments and condos - might not be the best model long term, because while life-sciences jobs on average are higher paying than jobs in other industries, "about a quarter of life science workers make less than $45,000 per year."

The report adds that all those life-sciences jobs contribute to job growth in other fields:

We estimate that every 1,000 life science jobs added in the city will support an additional 92 jobs in accommodation and food services, 59 jobs in retail trade, 26 jobs in the social assistance sector, which includes child care services, 19 jobs in personal care and laundry services, 11 jobs in the arts, entertainment, and recreation sector, and 7 jobs in repair and maintenance. These jobs mostly reflect the impact of employee consumption. Other industries, such as professional and technical services (90 indirect jobs), administrative and support services (86 jobs), transportation and warehousing (45 jobs) and wholesale trade (18 jobs) increase employment due to increased demand from life science employers.

Biotech also contributes to the Boston economy through all the conventions and conferences held here, at least before and after the worst of the pandemic.

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the Seaport model ...might not be the best model long term

you don't say.

Voting closed 42

Mixed business & residential is fine. They'll have to start lowering prices is all.

Voting closed 23

I am remodeling two bathrooms - one will be a life sciences laboratory.

Voting closed 48

My fridge is already a life sciences lab.

Voting closed 39

There was a shakeout in the fro-yo biz and we went from having two on every block to having to hunt for it. When every neighborhood has a few life sciences labs, will there be a shakeout and they'll all have to be converted to something else? Time will tell...

Voting closed 5

Solution: Moderna please develop a fro-yo* that secretly has the vaccine and then send out free coupons to the unvaxxed. Hire "celebrity servers" to hand out free samples. Send out fro-yo trucks into the neighborhoods. Put the fro-yo shops on the street level units of these new life-science labs; no one will ever suspect. Joe Biden make it happen! This will be the most ambitious crossover since Simon & Simon joined forces with Magnum, P.I.

(*traditional and non-dairy)

Voting closed 13