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CLSA in the San Francisco Business Times: Move over, Massachusetts: California takes top spot for biotech R&D jobs

By Allison DeAngelis | Original Link in the San Francisco Business Times
Aug 30, 2018

California just landed a shot against Massachusetts in the two states’ ongoing war for biotech industry supremacy.

A report published by the trade group MassBio showed that the number of California residents employed in biotech research and development job swelled to more than 39,000 last year, beating Massachusetts by 3,300 workers.

Massachusetts has been at the top of those rankings for more than a decade.

The two states have engaged in a long-running and (mostly) friendly battle to declare dominance in the biotech industry, which they use to attract more companies and more jobs. R&D jobs, fed by hospitals, universities, startups and workforce pools, is one indicator of which cluster is winning.

But the change is far from an indictment of Massachusetts’ biotech industry, industry leaders there said; it’s more a function of size.

“Yes, R&D employment in California is increasing, but it is in Massachusetts as well. California is almost six times the size in terms of population, so growth on their side doesn’t surprise me,” said Elizabeth Steele, MassBio’s vice president of programs and global affairs

“The strength that Massachusetts showed (in R&D) is something we have seen in the past and will continue to see in the future.”

But California’s growth also is due to a well-educated workforce, committed investors, entrepreneurs and public policy that supports the industry, said Sara Radcliffe, president and CEO of the California Life Sciences Association, a trade group based in South San Francisco.

“R&D jobs account for the lion’s share of our life sciences employment, largely because the ecosystem has the right ingredients and smart public policies that attract talent from around the world,” Radcliffe said in a statement to the San Francisco Business Times.

Then Radcliffe appeared to throw down a challenge: The CLSA in November releases a report on the state of the biotech industry in California, she said, and “we’re confident the data will show that California continues to outpace other states in life science-related economic growth, including venture funding, national Institutes of Health funding, digital health venture funding and more.”

In the MassBio report, California experienced a 15 percent jump in R&D workers between from the end of 2016 to the close of 2017 and has been slowly chipping away at Massachusetts’ lead over the past decade. Since 2008, the report said, the number of R&D workers in California has grown 84 percent.

Biotech R&D jobs in Massachusetts grew 4 percent between 2016 and 2017, in line with the state’s 4.3 percent increase in jobs industrywide.

The rankings were determined using federal data that can’t be broken down to account for company moves and other changes that can affect employment, Steele said.

— Ron Leuty contributed to this report.

Read at the San Francisco Business Times.