From California Investment Guide 2019

The Largest Life Sciences Cluster In the World

How big is California’s biotech and life sciences sector? Really big, a new report reveals.


The California Life Sciences Association released the 2019 California Life Sciences Industry Report in November 2018. It puts numbers behind the claim that the Golden State’s biomedical industry is the largest such cluster in the world. The sector employs more than 311,000 people, has generated $178 billion — with a “b,” — is projected to attract $7.6 billion in venture capital and has received nearly $4 billion in grants from the NIH.

The report, produced with PwC US, further quantifies the breadth and depth of this sector:

2018 saw a 4.2% increase in total life sciences jobs (up 12,500 from the prior year), with companies directly employing 311,226 people in California — the most in the nation — with wages averaging $119,000.

Total jobs created by the industry in California surpassed 958,000 including approximately 647,000 indirect and induced employment.

There are 3,418 life sciences companies (up 169 from the prior year) in California, that have 1,332 new therapies in the development pipeline.

California biomedical companies are projected to attract more than $7.6 billion from the VC community, an increase of approximately nearly $1.5 billion from 2017. California has a 54.7% share of the nation’s total VC investment.


The state’s universities graduated over 4,900 science and engineering PhDs, leading the nation by a wide margin. Universities and research institutes also brought in $3.9 billion in NIH grants, which also led the nation.

“California’s thriving life sciences industry continues to grow thanks to the contributions of companies that have developed groundbreaking therapies to help treat many serious illnesses — including cancer, hepatitis and heart disease — and engineered more sustainable materials, smarter agriculture and cleaner chemicals,” noted then-Governor Jerry Brown. “Our innovative life sciences sector is a source of great pride for Californians and brings with it an impressive positive economic impact – more than 300,000 Californians are directly employed by life sciences companies, particularly in world-famous hubs in San Francisco, San Diego, Los Angeles and Orange County.”

Additional Findings

Biopharma and medical device employment in California combined grew 11.2% between 2013 and 2017. By contrast, those numbers declined by nearly 2% in the second-ranked state, New York, for the second year in a row. The Bay Area led the state with over 82,500 direct life sciences jobs (an increase of nearly 11,200 from prior year). Los Angeles County follows closely with 57,100 (an increase of 7,700), while San Diego County directly employs 48,400 an (increase of 6,500), and Orange County reported 45,000 direct life sciences jobs (up by 4,500). The industry paid workers $37.1 billion (a $3.1 billion increase) in salaries and wages during 2017 with the average annual wage of $119,000, up from $114,000.

“When we look at the numbers for the statewide life sciences industry, we’ve seen really consistent increases over the past few years in California,” noted Peter Claude, Partner, Pharmaceutical & Life Sciences Advisory, PwC. We are seeing remarkable success in all aspects of the industry in California, and with continued investment, we can see more breakthrough technologies reach patients everywhere.”

An enormous economic plus, California life sciences companies earned revenues of $178 billion in 2017, up from $169 billion the previous year. Biomedical exports increased to $25.2 billion, an increase of $2.5 billion from the prior year, and the industry and employees paid $19 billion in federal, California state and local taxes. Home to 1,848 medical device and equipment manufacturing firms, and 1,570 biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, California’s total 3,418 life sciences companies — 169 more than the previous year — produce new technologies to improve patient care and boost the state’s economy.


Mark Arend
Editor Emeritus of Site Selection magazine

Mark Arend

Mark Arend is editor emeritus of Site Selection, and previously served as editor in chief from 2001 to 2023. Prior to joining the editorial staff in 1997, he worked for 10 years in New York City at Wall Street Computer Review, ABA Banking Journal and Global Investment Technology. Mark graduated from the University of Hartford (Conn.) in 1985 and lives near Atlanta, Georgia.


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