New York sketches out $500M plan to build a biotech hub

Skyline of Manhattan
New York City skyline (TomasSereda)

New York City is doubling down on its long-discussed, never-realized dream of building a biotech hub to rival South San Francisco and Boston. The latest iteration of the dream comes backed by a $500 million financing package and a goal to quadruple the amount of R&D space in the city.

City officials sketched out the funding that is available as part of a request for proposals about how to increase the amount of life science space on the rental market. 

The centerpiece of the plan is a $100 million investment by the city in a life science campus. Officials envisage the site serving as an institutional anchor for the New York biotech community while also providing a space for entrepreneurial training and R&D partnerships. Key details such as the location of the campus are yet to be nailed down. 

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Other facets of the plan are also light on specifics, but the city has a broad vision for how to address the bottlenecks that have constrained growth of the local biotech sector to date. Notably, the city is offering $300 million in tax incentives to encourage investment in commercial lab space. These tax breaks will carry the burden of addressing the long-standing shortage of space for biotech startups in New York City. 

The focus of the spending reflects the city’s awareness of its own shortcomings. 

“One area where we know that we are not the top is in the commercialization of the life sciences," James Patchett, CEO of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, told Forbes. “And, so, we believe that there's a moment in time, right now, where if we put our cards on the table we can be a leader in this field.”

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Half of the remaining $100 million of the financing package is earmarked for investment in nonprofit research facilities. These investments are intended to help New York City’s existing institutions create spaces where their research can advance toward commercialization. In doing so, the city aims to build a bridge between academic researchers and the commercial lab space it hopes to bring online in the coming years. 

The city has set itself hard targets against which to measure the success of its efforts, Forbes reports. Officials want to quadruple the amount of R&D space by 2026. Hitting that goal would result in New York City having 4 million square feet of lab space. The city also aims to boost NIH funding by 30%, quadruple annual investment in biotech and grow the number of commercial research jobs by 20%.