I am BIO podcast explores how Boston became a ‘biotech hub’

i am bio boston

As the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) prepares for the June 5-8 International Convention in Boston, the I am BIO Podcast explores how that city became “the world’s biggest biotech hub.”

You could say biotech is built into Boston’s DNA. In 1977, the Cambridge City Council made their city the first to pass local legislation allowing recombinant DNA research. By 1978, Biogen was founded, and by 1981, Genzyme launched.

Shortly afterwards, in 1985, MassBIO became the world’s first biotech trade organization.

“That was really the start of what is now called the most innovative square mile on the planet,” MassBIO CEO Kendalle Burlin O’Connell tells the podcast.

“Of course, we have our premier academic institutions, Harvard, MIT, there’s actually over a hundred academic institutions in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, but right in this area of Kendall Square, they’re located here,” O’Connell says. “And because of that density, we’ve been able to recruit 18 of the top 20 biopharmas to have a physical presence here.”

There are nearly 1,000 biotech companies employing more than 100,000 in the Greater Boston area, which includes Cambridge, notes podcast host Rachel King, BIO CEO.

Government, private investment drive development

Other support includes the 2007 creation of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, under Gov. Mitt Romney. That program, and other state initiatives since, have invested more than $1.5 billion in biotech. When it comes to federal funds, Massachusetts biotech drew nearly $3.2 billion in National Institutes of Health funding in 2022.

Private investment in the industry in Massachusetts is big, too. “Venture funding has increased almost double during that timeframe. So we were just shy of $5 billion in 2018. And we’re just shy of $9 billion last year, which is incredibly important, again, to sustain our emerging biotech ecosystem here,” O’Connell says.

The result is impressive drug development coming out of the state.

“About 57% of new drug development happens in the United States. And because of the density of biotech companies and universities that we have here, Massachusetts understands that we play a huge role in this,” O’Connell says. “We actually make up about 15% of the US drug development pipeline, and 7% of the global drug development pipeline.”

Explore Boston’s biotech hub

The best of Boston and the rest of biotech will be on display at the BIO International Convention, which will bring 15,000 biotech leaders to the Boston Convention Center for more than 45,000 face-to-face partnering meetings and 140 panel sessions during June 5-8.

“We are so thrilled to have the BIO International Convention back here in Boston. Last time it was here it was in 2018,” says O’Connell. “We had record-breaking attendance, so we have a lot to live up to.”

Find out more and register for the BIO International Convention.

About The Author

Scroll to Top