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From Site Selection magazine, March 2024

Health Care As Incubator

Expanding health care environments offer growth and attraction opportunities for science.

Children’s Health℠ and UT Southwestern Medical Center unveiled plans in February for a new $5 billion pediatric health campus on more than 33 acres in Dallas’ Southwestern Medical District.
Renderings by HKS, Perkins&Will, and McCarthy Vaughn Partnership courtesy of Children’s Health and UT Southwestern Medical Center

by Adam Bruns

or areas seeking to attract high-level corporate or startup life sciences R&D, it’s important to know what’s life sciences and what’s not, market intelligence experts from Newmark, JLL and Avison Young told the audience on a panel I moderated at SCBio’s recent conference in Greenville, South Carolina. 

Comparisons to capitals like Boston, the Bay Area or the Research Triangle are all well and good, but it’s important to know who you are, said Dianne Jones, managing director in the business location and incentives practice for JLL in the Carolinas, as she highlighted the rise of the Pearl District, a biomedical neighborhood taking shape in Charlotte in partnership with the Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Wexford and Atrium Health.

Alan Reeves, senior managing director for Newmark out of New York, noted the success of attracting the high salaries of life sciences to your region can hinge on defining “which segments you can play in.” Health care, he said, is not life sciences. But then again, there’s Houston, which has leveraged its medical system well.

Even as workforce credentials, university research and other layers of data refine and re-refine analysis to ever-more-specific targets and specializations, the idea of placemaking applies just as much to creating a neighborhood for biopharma as it does to beautifying a neglected downtown. Hospitals and medical schools play a crucial role in building that neighborhood.

After the conference, I caught up with Bob Quinn, president and CEO of the South Carolina Research Authority (SCRA).

“I believe that health care development and life sciences industry attraction and retention are highly synergistic,” he says. “For example, as MUSC [Medical University of South Carolina] continues to expand both in Charleston and statewide, they are creating and growing ecosystems within which life sciences companies can thrive. The current plan to create an innovation district in Charleston, with MUSC at its center, is a perfect example of that.”

MUSC is aggressively commercializing its intellectual property, thereby serving as a source of cutting-edge technologies for life sciences companies, he says. “Such companies are often in the need of clinical partners and MUSC has many examples of these win-win relationships.” SCRA serves as an ecosystem partner with MUSC.

A study of biopharma investment location factors in the U.S., Japan and China as compared to the EU was released in October 2022 by Charles River Associates for the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA). Why? “Twenty years ago, the amount of investment made by pharmaceutical companies in R&D in the U.S. and Europe differed by only €2 billion,” the report says. “In 2020, the difference had increased to almost €25 billion, with Europe increasingly lagging behind.” NIH funding was a strong “biomarker” if you will.

“Five of the top six NIH-funded independent research hospitals are in the Boston area,” the report noted. Analysis of NIH spending per capita across the U.S. in 2021 also found strong NIH concentrations in other bioclusters in Maryland, Washington, D.C., and North Carolina. Meanwhile, CBRE’s 2024 U.S. Life Sciences Market Outlook notes that funding from the National Institutes of Health stands at $47.8 billion, the largest budget to date.

Here are a few snapshots from the field where care and commercialization are coalescing:

February 2024, Campina Grande, Brazil: According to a release in early February from Contemporanea Arquitetura e Interiores, HELP — Hospital de Ensino e Laboratórios de Pesquisa — “was conceived to be a reference center, capable of repositioning the city of Campina Grande as one of the main medical centers of a region that represents 34% of the Brazilian population” in the Agreste region of northeastern Brazil in the state of Paraíba. The hospital is conceived as “a center of excellence for medical training and scientific development that is linked to one of the most important and renowned medical schools in the region.”


Biopharma BG-1

HELP — Hospital de Ensinoe Laboratórios de Pesquisa —is envisioned to reposition Campina Grande as one of the main medical centers in the Agreste region of northeastern Brazil.

Photo by Vilmar Costa courtesy of Contemporanea Arquitetura eInteriores and v2com newswire


February 2024, Athens, Georgia: The University System of Georgia Board of Regents voted on February 13 to authorize the University of Georgia to establish a new independent School of Medicine in Athens at a time when the state faces a significant shortage of medical professionals. “The UGA School of Medicine will help address the health care needs of Georgia while also serving as a springboard for economic development that advances our state,” said UGA Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost S. Jack Hu. “The school will attract additional researchers and scientists as well as biomedical companies and startups, fueling discovery and commercialization that create new opportunities for Georgians.” In fiscal year 2023, UGA’s total R&D expenditures reached an all-time high of $570.9 million, the university said. “Over the past decade, total R&D expenditures at UGA have increased 61%, while federally funded R&D has risen by 76%.”

December 2023, Shanghai, China: The Charles River report notes that biotech was prioritized in the Chinese government’s Five-Year Plans and subsequently built upon by policies and funding to create a research ecosystem. That ecosystem undergirds the December announcement of a new global HQ and R&D center at Shanghai Zhangjiang International Medical Park from Changchun GeneScience Pharmaceutical (GenSci), a subsidiary of Changchun High-Tech Industries. The center will focus particulary on women’s and children’s health in line with the Chinese government’s efforts, the company said, noting, “The establishment of the R&D center sets the stage for GenSci to further advance the convergence of industry, academia, research and the medical community.” GenSci said it has formed “enduring and robust partnerships” with nearly 20 prominent universities.

December 2023, Richmond, Virginia: In his biennial budget, Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin included $90 million in one-time funds to the University of Virginia’s Manning Institute for Biotechnology, Virginia Tech’s Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC and the Virginia Commonwealth University’s Medicines for All Institute to facilitate collaboration on commercialization and startup support in partnership with the Virginia Innovation Partnership Authority. “At this time in history, the most impactful advances in medicine come from multi- and trans-disciplinary team science that requires groups with complementary expertise working together across institutions,” said Dr. Mike Friedlander, executive director of Virginia Tech’s Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC and Virginia Tech Vice President of Health Sciences and Technology, noting that the investment will contribute to “the enhanced growth of the bioscience commercialization ecosystem across the state through development of intellectual property and emerging biotechnology companies, working closely with our academic medicine institutions.”  

Adam Bruns
Editor in Chief of Site Selection magazine

Adam Bruns

Adam Bruns is editor in chief and head of publications for Site Selection, and before that has served as managing editor beginning in February 2002. In the course of reporting hundreds of stories for Site Selection, Adam has visited companies and communities around the globe. A St. Louis native who grew up in the Kansas City suburbs, Adam is a 1986 alumnus of Knox College, and resided in Chicago; Midcoast Maine; Savannah, Georgia; and Lexington, Kentucky, before settling in the Greater Atlanta community of Peachtree Corners, where he lives with his wife and daughter.


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