“Third Coast” Contenders: Rising Life Science Hubs in Houston and Seattle

9 Mar

By James Huang, Research Analyst, LSN

Claire Jeong, Research Analyst, LSN


Last week, LSN looked into the emerging life science hubs in Toronto and NYC to assess where the “Third Coast” of life sciences might emerge.  This week, we’ll take a look at two more cities that are looking to become beacons for the life science industry: Houston and Seattle.

The emergence of Texas Medical Center’s innovation programs has put Houston on the life science map.  In 2015, JLABS @ TMC opened to provide wet lab space for young biotech companies.  In Seattle, Juno Therapeutics has recently put the city back into the spotlight.  Both cities are home to major research centers, and are looking to convert their scientific acumen into further commercial progress.  Here’s how they stack up.

Houston Seattle
Research institutions Texas Medical Center comprises over 40 institutions, including major research centers such as MD Anderson, Baylor, Texas Children’s, and Rice University Major institutions include the University of Washington (UW), Fred Hutch Cancer Research Center, Allen Institute for Brain Science, and Seattle Biomedical Research Institute.
Pharma presence Johnson & Johnson have opened JLABS @ TMC. Alcon, Lonza, Mylan, Bayer and Novartis also have facilities in Houston. Pharma companies with Seattle operations include Celgene,  Bristol-Myers Squibb, Novo Nordisk and Gilead Sciences. Juno Therapeutics is based in Seattle.
Local investors The LSN Investor Platform tracks 52 life science investors based in Texas. The LSN Investor Platform tracks 18 life science investors based in Washington State.
Government support CPRIT (Cancer Prevention and Research Initiative of Texas) provides $3 billion in funding From 2005-2015, the Life Sciences Discovery Fund provided support to biotech startups. This continued into 2017 as a competitive grant program.
Startup companies The LSN Company Platform tracks 69 biotech and 123 medtech startups in Texas. The LSN Company Platform tracks 61 biotech and 35 medtech startups in Washington State.

Both cities have the potential to become biotech hubs.  Seattle has recently been challenged by a pullback in state support for the Washington Life Sciences Discovery Fund, and a loss of jobs due to Amgen pulling out of the city.  (Amgen had previously purchased Seattle’s leading biotech company, Immunex).  However with a rising star in Juno Therapeutics, the city has the potential to rebuild its status in the life sciences.  Additionally, the city’s tech expertise could lead to success in the booming Healthcare IT market.

Houston is eager to diversify its economy, and its local oil and gas wealth provide a source of capital to deploy into the life science industry.  With JLABS @ TMC, the TMCx accelerator, and AT&T’s Foundry, there are now many facilities for young healthcare companies to use while they develop their ideas.  Texas Medical Center is a major local employer and has become a source of skilled staff for new companies.  That said, the city has little previous experience as a biotech hub; any major company emerging from Houston would be the city’s first.

We’ll be keeping an eye on these two cities as they continue to build out their hubs.  Which do you think is most likely to make it as the “Third Coast”?


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