Research Triangle Named Nation’s Top Biomanufacturing Hub

    by Jim Shamp, NCBiotech Writer at the North Carolina Biotechnology Center

    The Research Triangle area is the hottest spot in the nation for biomanufacturing.

    That’s the pronouncement from JLL, a Fortune 500 professional services firm that specializes in real estate and investment management.

    The global firm launched a dedicated life sciences practice in its Raleigh-Durham office in October 2022 as the region’s multi-year expansion of the sector became international news. At the end of 2023 the company dubbed the Raleigh-Durham area the number-one biomanufacturing spot.

    Though JLL has produced a life sciences industry report for years, this is the first one that has broken out the important biomanufacturing segment.

    “This year, we launch our first ever medtech and biomanufacturing markets derived from a concentrated look at our model,” the company said in announcing the 2023 overview report.

    “Similar to our overall life sciences rank, the medtech and biomanufacturing models are comprised of variables such as employment, job postings and degrees, venture capital funding and clinical trials, and industry concentration and performance.”

    The company explained its decision by noting that the life sciences sector is “more than just the research and development of new therapeutics. It encompasses other life-impacting scientific endeavors: medical devices and technologies, and the emergence of biomanufacturing as a key driver of the overall industry’s evolution. Through our analysis, we’ve uncovered markets that show strength in these specific subsectors.”

    Travis McCready, JLL’s head of life sciences, Americas markets, explained, “By narrowing our focus on the huge life sciences landscape and parsing the biomanufacturing sector, we’re able to add another layer of valuable information for our clients. Our proprietary system clearly shows the incredible job North Carolina’s life sciences community has done to create its impressive biomanufacturing base.”

    The breakout of the biomanufacturing sector rankings appears on page 26 of the report. Not surprisingly, other hubs in the top five are the larger population centers of the San Francisco Bay area, Greater Boston, Philadelphia and New Jersey. JLL doesn’t explain why it considers the entire state of New Jersey to be a biomanufacturing hub, while excluding non-Triangle biomanufacturing sites such as the billion-dollar Eli Lilly facility under construction in Greater Charlotte and more huge production sites in Eastern North Carolina and the Piedmont Triad.

    Here’s what JLL said of the top-ranked Raleigh-Durham biomanufacturing market:

    “As there is more pressure than ever to speed up the drug development process, Raleigh-Durham is uniquely positioned to meet the need. With a rich history of large-scale biomanufacturing in the Research Triangle Park and the market’s outlying counties, a critical mass of workers is present. Research and development from the market’s three tier-one universities has facilitated an emerging lab market. Bridging the gap is a healthy pipeline of pilot manufacturing real estate with plenty of land, a growing talent base and an increasingly favorable business environment to catalyze the entirety of the drug development life cycle.”

    Bill Bullock, senior vice president of economic development and statewide operations with the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, said the JLL recognition is especially meaningful as NCBiotech begins its year-long 40th anniversary celebration.

    “The global life sciences community has long admired North Carolina’s steady growth of its biomanufacturing base,” he said. “We have an amazing convergence of support from state and local government entities, educational institutions and workforce training capabilities, top-quality infrastructure, all working in a unique environment of partnership that has been a hallmark of NCBiotech’s success for four decades. We greatly appreciate the spotlight JLL is shining on this increasingly important economic engine for North Carolina.”

    After North Carolina booked $2.1 billion in new life sciences facilities in 2022, promising 2,700 new jobs statewide, biomanufacturers continued the roll in 2023. Among numerous project announcements:

    1. Lilly announced a $450 million expansion of its nearly completed $474 million RTP pharmaceutical manufacturing facility, adding more than 100 new jobs.
    2. Virginia-based Invidior announced plans to invest $60 million in a sterile manufacturing plant in Raleigh to make medicines to treat substance use disorders and other serious mental illnesses.
    3. FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies announced that Janssen Supply Group would be its first tenant in its huge $2 billion contract biomanufacturing site in Holly Springs, 20 miles southwest of Raleigh.