Kendalle O’Connell CEO and President
"In 2022, Massachusetts received 25% of all biopharma VC funding in the US, and per capita we are still number one for NIH funding. We are also seeing new clusters emerge outside the traditional hubs of Kendall Square and Boston."
As the new MassBio CEO, what is your vision going forward?
The goal is to continue to support our 1,600 member companies so that they can continue to bring life-changing solutions to patients. We must maintain Massachusetts’s economic competitiveness, as the state is the best place in the world for life sciences due to years of strategic investment and collaboration between our partners within industry, government and academia. In 2008, our government partners made a significant investment with the Life Sciences Initiative, a 10-year, US$1 billion investment in life sciences. We are at a time where we are poised for a third iteration of the Life Sciences Initiative and we must think about how we create a robust and diverse workforce to sustain the growth we have experienced recently.
What have been MassBio’s main accomplishments in 2022?
We have successfully launched a new startup accelerator program, MassBioDrive, designed to advance breakthrough science while providing opportunities to innovators from all parts of the life sciences ecosystem. Our objective is to partner emerging companies with seasoned mentors and give them the fundamentals to take their ideas to fruition and do this through the lens of diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I). MassBio announced our workforce training center in Dorchester, Massachusetts, which will open in late 2023. In the past few years, we have seen unprecedented levels of venture capital investment coming into Massachusetts headquartered companies, with nearly US$9 billion of VC investment in 2022 and US$13.6 billion in 2021. In 2022, lab and manufacturing space in Massachusetts totaled approximately 55 million square feet, with 15 million square feet coming online in 2021 alone.
What makes Massachusetts an attractive hub for biopharma?
Massachusetts has world-class academic institutions training the best and brightest to enter the industry, best-in-class hospitals, and the most robust R&D ecosystem, and there is an incredible collaboration between industry, government, and academia. In 2022, Massachusetts received 25% of all biopharma VC funding in the US, and per capita we are still number one for NIH funding. We are also seeing new clusters emerge outside the traditional hubs of Kendall Square and Boston.
From an employment perspective, over the past 15 years, the life sciences sector in Massachusetts has grown 131%. The inflection point of this growth was the launch of the Life Sciences Initiative in 2008, allowing tremendous development of the biopharma industry, which today employs over 106,000 individuals.
How do you assess the current funding environment for biotechs?
Funds are there, but investors are acting more cautiously. The average round size was smaller in 2022; US$35.3 million compared to US$53 million in 2021, while the number of companies in Massachusetts that received funding was higher, with 246 companies in 2022 compared to 236 in 2021. As there are more innovators looking for funding, companies will have to be smarter in their capital expenditures and be able to give more clinical data to investors to create confidence. I believe that we will see more M&A activity in the biopharma space in 2023 with the mission to create value.
Can you elaborate on MassBio’s focus on diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I)?
MassBio has long been a leader as it relates to diversity, equity and inclusion, and has worked proactively to integrate DE&I into every single initiative and program we offer. The key is to work with our members to help them elevate DE&I as a business priority. We have seen a tangible impact on supplier diversity and we have created a robust supplier diversity program through MassBioEdge, our purchasing consortium. In 2022, over US$31 million of spend was channeled to diverse-owned businesses through this program.
What are MassBio’s main objectives for the next year?
We will continue to put in the necessary efforts to keep Massachusetts the best place in the world for life sciences. A key objective is ensuring that the legislature and our federal delegation understand the impact of the Inflation Reduction Act on our industry, particularly our emerging biotech community. We are excited about the launch of our workforce training center. Ensuring we are giving more residents a pathway into a career in the life sciences sector is a key objective. In 2023, we will also host our first-ever Align Summit, an early-stage investor conference that will run in parallel with our annual State of Possible Conference.