New York's biotech beginnings

New York has long produced top science but has struggled to retain and develop its own innovations. The city says it hopes a flurry of public-private partnerships, real estate developments and high-profile academic appointments will help establish it as a biotech hub. But VCs say New York will have to produce or attract experienced management in order to persuade them to seed local companies.

Unlike the translational hubs in the San Francisco Bay Area and Boston that sprouted spontaneously, the interest in New York is the result of city policies to grow the biotech industry in the region.

Maria Gotsch, president and CEO of the Partnership Fund for New York City, told SciBX that the desire to promote biotech dates to the early 2000s, as leaders of several city institutions noticed a mismatch between the amount and quality of life sciences research and the number of companies being created.

Gotsch noted that New York City contains nine of the country's top medical centers, and the state ranks in the top three for NIH awards. However, until recently, the majority of biotech innovations from many top New York institutions were used to launch companies in other cities.

"Keeping commercialization of biomedical sciences in New York is a problem we've been working on for the last decade," Gotsch told SciBX. "In the early days, a VC would fly in, go along First Avenue, stand outside Rockefeller and bring three things: a CEO, a bag of cash and a moving van to take it somewhere else."

There were myriad reasons that academic innovations ended up elsewhere, including insufficient lab space, a dearth of commercial interest and a lack of biotech-focused venture firms.

In the last four years, New York has addressed the first two issues by finding space and money for new labs and creating several significant early stage partnerships between academia and industry.

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