Montgomery County, Maryland, Expands as Leading Biotech Hub
[Published in BioBuzz]
Some of the world’s most promising life sciences research is taking place close to the nation’s capital in Montgomery County, Maryland.
More than 300 companies and 40,000 biotech workers are based in the county, focusing on vaccine development, cell and gene therapy research and other cutting-edge advancements in human health. They drew nearly $8 billion of investment in 2020 and $5.7 billion in 2021 and currently anchor the nation’s fourth-largest biotech hub.
As Maryland prepares to celebrate Economic Development Week from Oct. 24 to 28, county leaders say the conditions are right for the life sciences community to continue to grow.
“Montgomery County is a great business location,” said Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation Director of Economic Development Laurie Boyer Babb. “Our workforce can’t be beat. We have one of the best transportation networks connecting us not only to the mid-Atlantic region but across the country and around the globe. Everybody is bullish on Montgomery County, and we’re going to see great things coming over the next five to 10 years.”
Why Choose Montgomery County
Companies that choose Montgomery County become neighbors to some of the most influential players in the field. The world’s largest researcher and regulator, the National Institutes of Health and U.S. Food and Drug Administration, respectively, are based in the county, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services are close by in Baltimore. In all, 18 federal agencies and 36 federal labs are based in the county.
The county’s private sector also is home to a growing number of leading businesses. Companies from around the world make Montgomery County their U.S. headquarters – companies like Dutch medical testing company QIAGEN, which saw a huge demand for its COVID-19 test kits, upgraded its manufacturing operations in Montgomery County. Horizon Therapeutics chose Rockville for its East Coast research and development and technical operations hub, doubling its space in the region. And REGENXBIO opened a Manufacturing Innovation Center in Rockville in June while continuing to expand its workforce.
In addition to a broad public and private network, companies that locate in Montgomery County have access to a deep talent pool. The Universities at Shady Grove represents nine Maryland public universities with programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Georgetown University, George Washington University and The University of Maryland are nearby, and nearly a third of County residents over 25 have a master’s degree or higher.
“With the FDA, NIH and so many leading corporations in Montgomery County, we have our own ecosystem for life sciences,” said Jerry Sanford, Director of Economic Development with the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation. “It is a good value proposition for a company that is looking for both research and development, office or light manufacturing and processing space.”
More Investment on the Horizon
Developers and investors recognize the county’s draw for life sciences companies. Several new life science real estate projects are underway that will bring speculative biomanufacturing and laboratory space to the market.
P Matan is investing in the county with its new Progress Labs, approximately 495,000 square feet of new construction in Gaithersburg and three new buildings totaling 470,000 square feet to its Milestone Innovation Park in Germantown. In additon, Bethesda-based real estate developer Stonebridge is building two laboratory facilities in the county. The project, dubbed EvolutionLabs, will bring 800,000 square feet of space to the market over the next few years. The first building, which will be six stories and 150,000 square feet, is scheduled to be ready for tenant construction in late 2023.
“One of the biggest challenges in life sciences has been that users would come looking and we had a 5% vacancy rate for lab space, so we hardly had any product,” Boyer Babb said. “Having developers come in who are building speculative lab projects will help a lot. All companies have to do is sign the lease, request any customization they need, and then they’ll be done.”
The county also offers resources for researchers and entrepreneurs who are starting a new venture. The Germantown Innovation Center offers an incubator program with office space, shared wet labs and equipment and business resources. Emerging biotech companies can lease move-in ready wet lab space at the Greencourt Innovation Center, which includes amenity-rich office and lab space designed especially for innovative startups in North Bethesda.
With an established and growing ecosystem, a strong talent pool and continued investment, Montgomery County will continue to be a force in the life sciences sector, said Lynne Stein Benzion, Director of Economic Development with the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation.
“This is an amazing industry,” she said. “There are a lot of industries that are really, really great, but very few have the potential to change human health and our prospects for the future. This one does.”
Life sciences opportunities continue to grow in Montgomery County, Maryland. Connect@thinkmoco.com to learn more.