Massachusetts tops in U.S. for growth in biotech research jobs

Massachusetts' biotech industry group touted the growth of high-paying biotech jobs in the Bay State in 2011 as the commonwealth raised its profile further as one of the world's leading hubs of biopharma innovation. And MassBio even speculated that the trend could bode well for employment growth in the state's biotech sector in 2012.

MassBio (also known as the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council) reported on Thursday that the state's biotech sector employed 53,253 biopharma workers last year with a payroll of more than $6 billion, citing U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data. And the industry group noted in the report that the state led the country in biotech R&D employment with 28,177 research workers. Biopharma jobs growth in the state has flattened since 2009, according to the report, yet the industry group pointed out that Massachusetts has created more biotech research jobs than any other state since 2007.

The numbers provide more evidence that the Bay State has ginned significant biotech R&D activity at all levels of the industry. Some of the world's largest drugmakers such as Sanofi ($SNY), Pfizer ($PFE) and Novartis ($NVS) have grown their ranks in the state, primarily in the Boston area, and become three of the top-5 biopharma employers in the commonwealth along with Biogen Idec ($BIIB) and Shire ($SHPG). The Bay State also reaped $2.5 billion in National Institutes of Health funding and about $1.1 billion in venture capital investment in biotech last year. It was the most VC money pumped into the state's biotech groups ever.  

Biopharma groups large and small have set sail for Massachusetts to get in on the action. Seattle-based biotech Sarepta ($SRPT) is moving to Cambridge, MA, in search of talent, taking a promising program to develop a new drug for Duchenne muscular dystrophy with it in the relocation, Xconomy reported last week. Add that program to the 955 compounds in development at Massachusetts-based biotech groups as of August 2012, including 66 drugs in Phase III clinical trials and 11 filed for approval.

"The 2011 numbers may act as positive indicators for additional growth in 2012," MassBio said in a press release. "Postings for open biopharma industry positions on MassBio's online job board are up since 2009, with 6,223 jobs being advertised in 2011."

FierceBiotech plans to unveil its 2012 Fierce 15 companies in Boston next week at BioPharm America. And here's a hint: Several of the winners won't be traveling far to pick up their trophies.

- get the full report from MassBio