In 2020, Passage Bio, a genetic medicines company focused on rare disorders of the central nervous system, boasted a workforce of 20. That number has jumped to 100, with the aim of reaching 150 this year, according to CEO Bruce Goldsmith.
The Center City-based company’s quick expansion signals the uptick in employment opportunities and economic growth among the three dozen cell therapy, gene therapy, and gene editing companies located across the Philadelphia region.
Last year, the Philadelphia region’s entire life sciences hub ranked sixth in the United States, according to the JLL 2020 U.S. Life Sciences Real Estate Outlook, which tracks trends in the field, based on “new peaks in capital venture investment and life sciences employment.”
For the cell therapy, gene therapy, and gene editing sector, this translated to raising $4.3 billion in investment during 2020, skyrocketing up more than fourfold from $828 million in 2019. During the first quarter of 2021, the sector brought in $980 million in investment across 16 companies, according to the biopharma database company DealForma.
Cell therapy, gene therapy, and gene editing all involve cell or gene modifications to treat disease. While these companies currently employ about 4,900 workers across the region, data from Econsult Solutions Inc. (ESI), an economic consulting firm in Philadelphia, show that the sector can add as many as 11,274 jobs over the next decade.
With the possible multiplying of this high-tech, well-paying workforce on the horizon, Saul Behar, a senior vice president at the University City Science Center, sees an opportunity for local residents. And not only for those with doctorates.
“In the future, there will be jobs in this area for people that don’t require a graduate or even a college degree,” Behar said. “Think logistics, marketing, lab cleaning, front office positions, finance.”
Not to mention a range of computer science careers. “Connected health, digital health, and data analytics are all vital to this sector,” Behar said.
While pay rates vary depending on the company, the industry, and the position, Behar added that wages ranged broadly from $15 to $27 an hour, while salaries for business operation roles start at $55,000 a year.