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CBRE Report: Strong Growth of Life Sciences Sector Favors Real Estate in Select Markets

San Diego is third-ranked life sciences cluster in the U.S.; continues to be a hotbed for top talent and groundbreaking companies

San Diego CA— The U.S. life sciences industry and the real estate that it occupies have ridden a wave of momentum into this year that has positioned various industry hubs, from cornerstones such as Boston to emerging hotspots like Seattle, for outsized growth, according to a new report from CBRE.

Numerous indicators point to robust expansion for the industry, including the 86 percent increase in venture-capital funding for U.S. life sciences companies to $15.8 billion for the year ended in September from the previous year. Additionally, life sciences lab space under construction in the industry’s five largest U.S. markets expanded by 101 percent last year to 6.0 million sq. ft.
That momentum has several markets ascendant on CBRE’s ranking of the top established and emerging life sciences hubs. San Diego, for example, the third-ranked life sciences cluster in the U.S., continues to be a hotbed for top talent and groundbreaking companies. This growth is made evident in the construction of new projects throughout San Diego, such as Alexandria’s 113,000-square-foot GradLabs, the first lab spec development San Diego has seen in years. Another key project is BioMed’s Center for Novel Therapeutics, which it is creating in partnership with the University of California San Diego
“The life science industry is one of the main economic drivers in San Diego,” said San Diego-based Senior Vice President Ryan Egli. “This sector continues to see tremendous growth in the region, in large part due to the top talent that our local universities produce as well as the highly impactful research institutions and corporations that call San Diego home. The University of California, San Diego, for example, graduates roughly 3,400 STEM degrees a year and consistently provides the region with premier talent. The real estate sector and the market have a working relationship that goes back more than 60 years, and it has only grown stronger during this period of significant growth and development.”

Home to more than 600 life sciences companies, San Diego is seeing significant growth in jobs within the industry. Life sciences employment in San Diego is at a record level, jumping to nearly double the national average – 13.5 percent compared to 6.9 percent from 2006 to 2016. A surge of venture-capital funding to local companies in 2018 should equate to more growth, increased hiring and greater demand for space in 2019. Gossamer Bio and Epic Sciences, two life science companies based in San Diego, received $330 and $161 million, respectively, and benefitted greatly from the record high venture capital that flooded into the county in 2018. San Diego life science companies received over $2.3 billion in venture capital investment in 2018, doubling the 2017 total.
With demand for lab space increasing over the past year, commercial real estate fundamentals are expected to remain very tight in the San Diego area. A limited supply of new lab space has resulted in exceptionally low vacancy and record-high rents, especially in Torrey Pines and University Towne Center (UTC). Over the past year, average asking rents for lab space in Torrey Pines and UTC have grown 7 percent and 14 percent, respectively. Asking rents in Sorrento Mesa and Sorrento Valley are also at, or near, a record.

CBRE’s report focuses on the human life-sciences industry, which encompasses manufacturing, testing and research-and-development work in the fields of biotechnology, pharmaceuticals and medical devices.

CBRE analyzed and ranked the top established life sciences hubs by weighing four main criteria for each market: number of scientists in key industry categories, industry funding for local life sciences companies, size and long-term growth of their life sciences workforce, and their inventory of industry lab space.

Top 10 Established Life Sciences Markets

  1.  Boston-Cambridge
  2. San Francisco Bay Area
  3.  San Diego
  4. New Jersey
  5. Raleigh-Durham
  6. Washington, D.C.-Baltimore
  7. New York City
  8. Philadelphia
  9. Los Angeles
  10. Chicago

Beyond the established hubs, CBRE analyzed the next tier of emerging hubs to determine which are climbing quickly up the national ranks. CBRE ranked the emerging hubs based on their three-year growth in life sciences employment; NIH funding; quality and quantity of educational institutions for life sciences studies; number of medical research and health-services institutions; and their depth of high-tech workers. Nine met the criteria to be ranked as fast-growing, emerging hubs.

Top Emerging Life Sciences Hubs

  1. Seattle
  2. Houston
  3. Austin
  4. Minneapolis
  5. St. Louis
  6. Denver
  7. Dallas-Fort Worth
  8. Atlanta
  9. Pittsburgh

“Multiple indicators point to sustained, strong growth for the life sciences industry, which makes life sciences labs and offices an ideal focus for developers and investors,” said Steve Purpura, Vice Chairman leading CBRE’s Life Sciences business. “Few industries offer this much expansion potential, but much of the activity happens in a select number of special markets.”
To read the full report, click here.

About CBRE Group, Inc.

CBRE Group, Inc. (NYSE:CBRE), a Fortune 500 and S&P 500 company headquartered in Los Angeles, is the world’s largest commercial real estate services and investment firm (based on 2017 revenue). The company has more than 80,000 employees (excluding affiliates), and serves real estate investors and occupiers through approximately 450 offices (excluding affiliates) worldwide. CBRE offers a broad range of integrated services, including facilities, transaction and project management; property management; investment management; appraisal and valuation; property leasing; strategic consulting; property sales; mortgage services and development services. Please visit our website at