I want to be a part of it, says New York, as Mayor launches $500M life sci project

Mayor Bill de Blasio is hoping to help create a new sustainable life sciences ecosystem in a City short on space

New York City has always lagged behind the big life sciences cities of Massachusetts and California, predominately because of a lack of space, but it has over the years pushed for greater investment, and today NY Mayor Bill de Blasio has launched a new $500 million project to boosts its R&D offering.

The City has around 100 research foundations and nine academic medical centers, including the high-end work coming out of Memorial Sloan-Kettering, but there is a chronic shortage of commercial lab space, which has made it hard for NYC to hold on to young companies spinning out of its research institutions.

Bill de Blasio’s solution is ‘LifeSci NYC’, a project that is designed to help life science start-ups with cash boosts and tax incentives, while also creating thousands of new jobs across the City.

As with many of these type of city-wide initiatives, the Mayor’s office will stump up some money, but hope that longer term investments will come from the commercial sector by making NYC as attractive as possible to life science investors and companies, and will eventual create a blossoming, sustainable life sciences ecosystem of its own.

One of the headline developments is what it is calling an “Applied Life Sciences Campus,” attempting to mirror the Cornell-Tech model, and starts life with a $100 million investment.

This new Campus is set to be built along Manhattan’s East Side or in neighboring Long Island City.

This will unlock 2.8 million square feet of private investment in new commercial lab space, as well as “provide training programs for workers and facilitate collaboration between the city’s leading medical research institutions, pharmaceuticals, startups, venture capital firms, and philanthropies.”

Around $50 million from the $500 million pot will be used to expand a “network of life sciences R&D facilities,” which will also see NYC provide capital to a network of up to eight non-profit research facilities.

On top of this, $10 million is earmarked to help incubators for life sciences start-up facilities, with the City injecting cash in up to five new incubators and innovation centers, with the first expected to open late next year.

There will also be around $300 million in tax incentives to attract investment in commercial lab space for life sciences businesses.

Much of it in a political sense is centered around job creation: With 16% growth in jobs since 2009, the life sciences sector “is among the fastest growing in the city,” according to a statement from the Mayor’s office.

As part of the initiative, the cash will be funnelled into creating 16,000 new jobs at all education levels, as well as 1,000 paid internships and average salaries of $75,000 across all areas of life sciences.

“The life sciences industry is not only producing new discoveries that improve people’s lives, but it also has the potential to play a major role in the future of our five-borough economy,” said New York City economic development corporation president Maria Torres-Springer.

“We’re making these ground-breaking investments to bring 16,000 good middle-class jobs to New Yorkers from all backgrounds. And working with industry leaders, we’re going to help shape the sector’s growth to ensure it remains accessible and inclusive.”

The Mayor will also create a new “Life Sciences Advisory Council,” a team of experts from academia, industry, philanthropy and finance, to advise the City on its life science programs.

This will be co-chaired by doctors Harold Varmus and Vicki Sato. Dr. Varmus is a Nobel Laureate and former director of both the National Institutes of Health and the National Cancer Institute, while Dr. Sato is the chair of Denali Therapeutics, and former president of Vertex.

“As a relative newcomer to New York City but a long-time veteran in the biotechnology and pharma industries, I look forward to working with Dr. Varmus and the Mayor’s team to help create a world class biomedical innovation center in New York,” said Dr. Sato.

“The rich history of innovation and biomedical discovery in this city, together with the commitment of its business and civic leaders, can deliver improved healthcare and catalyze economic growth.”

This is not the only project to try and boost NYC’s research scene this year, and back in the summer Alexandria Real Estate Equities said it would carve 15,000 square feet out of its big research campus on the East Side of the city for a new incubator, with plans to seed and feed new companies looking to springboard the technologies coming out of the Big Apple’s marquee academic centers.

And back in January, Seattle-headquartered Accelerator said it was doing its bit to kick-start New York City's nascent biotech ecosystem by leading its group of big-name investors to back a $48 million funding round for a local upstart.

This also comes in the same week as a similar, statewide $650 million initiative was announced by Governor Andrew Cuomo yesterday.