Unlocking Potential: A Look at New York’s Life Science Industry

We recently connected with Jennifer Hawks Bland, CEO of NewYorkBIO, the leading advocate for New York’s life science community, to discuss her insights into the evolution of the local
life science industry. With more than 20 years in the biotech and pharmaceutical space, she provided key perspectives into the
ever-evolving industry.  

As the CEO of NewYorkBIO, you are immersed in the life science innovations spurred by organizations across New York. What excites you most about being engrained in the life science industry, especially in the Empire State?

When I moved to New York in 2016, I was energized to join a growing market during what was clearly an inflection point. I was drawn to NewYorkBIO because I saw that the potential for our industry’s growth in New York was exponential, and that is exactly what I have witnessed over the past few years.

Historically, the limited space for life science companies restricted the development of the industry statewide. However over the past several years, thanks to a mix of public and private investments, we are seeing growth of research clusters popping up across New York. NewYorkBIO has advocated for public support of life science-specific real estate and a regulatory climate that supports the growth of our industry. I am incredibly excited to see clusters forming around educational centers, academic medical centers, academic centers of excellence, and centers for advanced technology.

The investment and growth in our industry can be attributed to multiple sources. First, innovative companies across New York are stepping up to find treatments and solutions for patients. Second, the industry’s success can also be traced to New York’s robust academic community and international reputation as a great place to live. There are so many entrepreneurs who have lived in New York, gone to school here, and/or conducted research at our academic medical centers, who want New York to be the place they build a life science company – and now investors support their doing so. I cannot wait to see what is next for this growing community.

In the time since you entered the life science industry, what changes have you witnessed?

Looking at the industry at-large, the biggest shift throughout my career has been consolidation, leading to the formation of major power-house companies that are incredibly influential in the industry.

In New York specifically, we have seen a huge growth of early-stage companies. This sets New York apart – we are growing differently than other clusters across the country. While we also have large, established companies, we have a slightly different mix than what we have seen in Boston or California, where large biotech company scientists have spun out and formed companies. New York’s companies are growing more from academia; because the kindling to our firewood is different, our companies are going to be as well. 

During your time as CEO of NewYorkBIO, we have witnessed the life science industry make waves, from COVID vaccines to the latest abundance of metabolic treatments. How have these trends affected the industry’s work—have they been positive or negative?

There is always going to be something that is hot – there are always going to be “trends.” We want New York companies to be at the forefront, and take advantage of early-mover status, which will be followed closely by the companies working on different solutions and new innovations.

We also need to remember that life science trends derive from unmet medical needs. If we see a widespread life science movement, it is because it is shifting the needle in addressing unmet needs for patients. At the end of the day, we are talking about improving the lives of patients, something that should not be taken lightly. 

As you look 5 years into the future, where do you potentially see New York setting itself apart from other regions?

We are going to see companies growing bigger and companies being acquired, which will infuse more capital back into the system. From there, we expect to see those founders exiting through acquisition, to want to do it again, here in New York.

Because these founders are driven to build subsequent companies in New York, the state’s industry will continue to grow and innovate. The primary way we are going to achieve this though, is with time. Over the next five years, there will be a group of life science companies that will build out their commercial infrastructure in New York, and other life science founders that will exit or sell their companies and will decide to start the process over in New York utilizing the vast resources available to them. 

What do you wish more people knew about the life science industry?

The life science industry is about improving the health of patients, but also improving the health of the world, and finding ways to prevent illness as well as cure devastating disease and conditions. New York is home to companies working on the intractable health issues of our time, but also working to develop new digital, technological, device and new modalities that will enable us to live longer, healthier and more productive lives. I am proud that New Yorkers will have such a profound impact on life today and for generations to come. It is an honor to have a small part of this effort by leading NewYorkBIO.  

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