The Year In New York Biotech—Still Trying to Make It Here

12/28/12Follow @cathyarnst

It’s been a year and a half since Xconomy added New York to the cities it covers. I came on as New York Editor in October, taking over from Arlene Weintraub, who pioneered coverage here, knowing that the city is a rich source of tech stories and more than deserving of Xconomy’s focus. It might seem strange, though, that both Arlene and I have spent most of our careers covering life sciences—not the industry that immediately jumps to mind when people think New York-born startups.

But while my colleague Joao-Pierre S. Ruth is doing a fabulous job covering Silicon Alley and all its offshoots (watch for his wrap-up of NY’s tech world next week), I’m finding lots of stories about the emerging group of biotech, medical devices, and health IT firms putting down roots in the New York region . Perhaps not in the city, with its sky-high rents, but certainly in nearby New Jersey and the Westchester suburbs.

My first story for Xconomy was a summary of our informative forum, Reinventing Biotech for the Big Apple, held in Manhattan on October 4. I wrote that “a core group of investors, entrepreneurs, and scientists, with the support of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, are working to turn [Brooklyn], along with two sites in Manhattan, into a New York-centric biotech center that could rival those in California and Massachusetts.”

New York is the world’s leading financial and philanthropic center, with more than a dozen world-class research institutions, and the region is home to the headquarters of Pfizer (NYSE: PFE), Merck (NYSE: MRK), Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE: BMY), and Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ), so it certainly has the basics to build a strong life sciences sector. But it still needs a bigger venture capital community, and a critical mass of startups that beget startups. As Kadmon CEO Sam Waksal, New York’s best known biotech entrepreneur, told the forum, “There is great science here, it’s a great place to do business,” but there is the ongoing problem of “access to land and labs.”

Still, according to a 2011 report from the Business Council of New York, the state of New York is second only to California in the number of clinical trials conducted, and its academic institutions spend some $2.7 billion a year on biological research and development, second only to California. So let’s look back and see how those assets played out in 2012, month by month.

January

On January 26 Summit, NJ-based Celgene (NASDAQ: CELG), the most prominent biotech in the region, announced it was buying a startup—but in Massachusetts. Celgene agreed to pay $350 million, plus up to $575 million in milestone payments, for Avila … Next Page »

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  • realposter

    Good coverage.

    I have 2 theories – which may or may not be correct. 1) The big pharma companies exist in the NYC metro area are in some cases 100 year old institutions – so they suck up most of the talent that is in the area. 2) the top notch research institutes are more interested in earning licensing revenues than foster entrepreneurship…(I don’t mean that in a negative way).

    Boston and San Francisco are expensive too… so that can’t be the main reason.