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Built for Bio: Montgomery County, Maryland

Its robust network of universities and large presence of federal agencies, including the NIH and FDA, have made Montgomery County a prime location for life science firms.

Q2 2024
The National Institutes of Health Campus, Bethesda, Maryland
The National Institutes of Health Campus, Bethesda, Maryland
Editor's Note: This article was paid for and written by Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation and approved by Area Development.

Demand in the life sciences industry has exploded. By 2030, the global market is expected to reach nearly $1 trillion, and Montgomery County, Maryland, is right in the thick of things.

The county has established itself as a prime location for companies in this sector. It is the hub for the third-largest biopharma cluster in the U.S., with more than 300 life science companies and 26,000 employees. Companies like AstraZeneca, REGENXBIO Inc., United Therapeutics, MilliporeSigma and Deka Biosciences Inc., have all recently expanded their operations within the county.

“We have global companies that specialize in gene and cell therapy, biopharmaceuticals, immunology,” says Prayas Neupane, Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation’s (MCEDC) director of Economic Development. “There’s a reason these companies are located here — we have the right talent, the right infrastructure and a highly educated workforce. There’s a lot of synergy between what the county can offer and why the life science companies are here.”

Montgomery County is a strategic location for life science companies. It is home to the NIH, FDA and many other federal agencies. But perhaps more importantly, it has a robust network of universities and a highly educated workforce. With 33% of county residents having an advanced degree, talent — especially within specialized fields such as life sciences — is abundant in the county.

Having access to an excellent talent pipeline is critical for most life science companies. In Montgomery County, Md., this talent is also extremely diverse. In fact, 4 of the 10 most ethnically diverse cities in the entire country are in the county, where over 115 languages are also spoken across top ranking schools. For businesses seeking to innovate, having a diverse and highly educated workforce is a winning combination that gives them a significant competitive advantage.

Then, there’s the life sciences ecosystem — funding from the NIH alone reached $2.7 billion last year, and real estate is still significantly less expensive than other regions. “That’s a driver for growth,” says Pete Briskman, executive managing director and co-lead for the real estate advisory company JLL’s Mid-Atlantic Life Sciences practice. “There are purpose-built developments, new construction, biomanufacturing for later-stage companies, and we have a healthy vacancy level compared to other top clusters.” In the life sciences sector, connections are especially important in real estate. From specialized labs to biomanufacturing to clinical trial space, the complications and expense of build outs can be enormous.

We have global companies that specialize in gene and cell therapy, biopharmaceuticals and immunology. Prayas Neupane, director of Economic Development, Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation’s (MCEDC) MCEDC is a public-private partnership whose mission is to attract and retain six strategic industries to Maryland’s Montgomery County: technology, hospitality, real estate, nonprofits, corporate headquarters and, of course, life sciences. It makes critical connections for businesses looking to grow in the county. Neupane and the MCEDC team collaborate with local experts and partners to ensure life science businesses get all of their unique needs met.

Pat Larrabee is one of them. As the founder, president and CEO of real estate consulting firm Facility Logix, she helps life science companies determine what site best suits them and then ensures that the new location continues to meet their needs as the company grows. “Our team has deep science and compliance backgrounds coupled with design and construction expertise,” says Larrabee. “We work very closely with the county and the landlord community to make sure these companies are taken care of.”

Jeff Chod, partner and regional director at construction and property management company Minkoff Development Corp., uses its large portfolio to help life science organizations find alternative solutions to limited capital, often by reusing existing infrastructure from other companies. For example, an earlier-stage business may want to leverage someone else’s lab infrastructure to their initial investment costs. “Like playing matchmaker, we’re able to move companies to create a variety of solutions,” he says, noting a recent short-term lease between one company needing a specialized production area and another with excess capacity that fit the specs for that client.

With a rich talent pool and diverse population, and the global demand for life sciences innovations surging, businesses in Maryland’s Montgomery County are uniquely positioned for success.

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