September 25, 2019   I   Jola Glotzer

John Conrad, iBIO versus GEN

Or, which important indicators of growing Chicagoland biotech community were not included in the GEN’s “Top 10 U.S. Biopharma Clusters” report. Plus, the CBC’s “two cents” 🙂

Chicago skyline. Courtesy: Brian Kay, UIC.

Yesterday, we celebrated Chicago’s advancement from #10 to #9 on the 2019 TOP 10 US Biopharma Clusters list released by Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News (GEN). And yes, it is uplifting to see the Chicago region gaining nationwide recognition as an imminent biopharma hub. GEN’s report provided several examples of key elements contributing to Chicagoland’s growing “life sciences metropolitan ranking,” including the growth in lab space at Northwestern University and Chicago-based Sterling Bay. However, as John Conrad, President & CEO of iBIO & iBIO Institute, points out in an editorial published today in iBIO News, many other equally important recent developments in our community unfortunately escaped GEN’s attention (see below).

To further complement his insight, John admits that GEN’s report focused only on evaluating the pharmaceutical and biopharma industry. These play a major role but the report omits many strengths of the Chicagoland including its biosciences diverse intellectual base amassed by an unparalleled number of world-class universities and research centers, including Northwestern, UChicago, UIC, Rush, Rosalind Franklin, Loyola, Illinois Institute of Technology, and the list goes on. Worth mentioning is the collaboration between Northwestern, UIC and UChicago, which, in 2006, with the generous support from the Searle Funds at The Chicago Community Trust, formed the Chicago Biomedical Consortium (CBC). Recently, the CBC also made visible strides to support entrepreneurial efforts within the Greater Chicago-area. In addition to its core commitment to supporting basic biomedical research via the Catalyst Award program, the CBC now offers the Accelerator Award program, which supports translational research, and the CBC Accelerator Network (CBCAN) program, a forum bringing together entrepreneurial faculty, industry experts, university tech transfer officers, researchers and others from the local and extended biomedical community to present and discuss ideas and discoveries for commercialization.

Thank you, John, for voicing your opinion and expanding on GEN’s report. We, Chicagoans, have plenty to be proud of already, but as you point out, we must continue our discussions and efforts regarding “what we need to do to [further] improve our community.”

September 25, 2019  |  iBIO News  |  by John Conrad

What GEN Missed in their TOP 10 US Biopharma Clusters Report

Yesterday Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News released their annual Top 10 U.S. Biopharma Clusters report. While the ranking showed growth in the Chicago region (we moved up one spot, from 10th to 9th), the report missed a lot of what is happening in our community.

First and foremost, iBIO applauded the 5 year extension of the R&D Tax Credit Governor Pritzker signed on August 2nd. The extension of the credit is an important step to our ultimate goal of a permanent extension.

There was no mention of the Discovery Partners Institute (DPI) and the state’s $500 million commitment to growing public-private research partnerships. It was announced on August 30th that DPI earned state approval for the next 5 years.

While the report does mention the growth in lab space development, citing Sterling Bay and Northwestern University. The report missed a number of other developments in the community:

  • Rosalind Franklin University’s Science and Innovation Research Park in North Chicago 100,000 sqf of newly constructed lab space, opening this fall.
  • 146,000 sqf of space currently being renovated at the Illinois Science + Technology Park in Skokie.
  • University of Chicago’s Polsky Center expansion is expected to add an additional 280,000 sqf of office and lab space in Hyde Park by 2022.
  • Burnham Lakefront Mega Development Project.
  • Under investment, there was no mention of Deerfield Management’s $65 million partnership with Northwestern and their $65 million partnership with UIC to foster the development of new therapeutics.

And finally, this report just focuses on the pharmaceutical and biopharma industry. One of our community’s biggest strengths is that we are diverse and have major initiatives and companies in the medtech, health IT, and food & nutrition industries.

There are a number of “life sciences metropolitan ranking” reports released every year. It is a great marketing piece, and I am sure it drives a lot of traffic. And on a positive note, it does create a conversation around what we need to do to improve our community (read iBIO’s State of the Industry and Economic Blueprint). But take it for what it is, entertainment, and not an economic indicator of the community’s health.

What did I miss in my list? Let me know.

Adapted (with modifications) from iBIO News, by John Conrad, published on September 25, 2019.