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Boston remains top life sciences cluster globally, according to new report from real estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle

Posted by Scott Kirsner  January 31, 2013 09:00 AM

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Boston's sports franchises aren't exactly giving us the chance to don our foam "We're #1" fingers lately. But the local life sciences industry is once again taking top honors, in a new report from the commercial real estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle.

And isn't developing new drugs and treatments that save human lives just a smidge more important than that football game on Sunday?

The report ranks the Boston area life sciences scene as the premier R&D cluster in the world, with more than 74,000 life sciences employees; five of the top eight NIH-funded hospitals in the country; and numerous major research universities, including Harvard, MIT and Tufts. Behind Boston in the rankings are San Diego and the San Francisco Bay Area. This is the second year that Jones Lang has issued its report on life sciences clusters, and the second year that Boston has topped the list.

In Kendall Square alone right now, says Jones Lang VP Don Domoretsky, there are 2.5 million square feet of new life sciences buildings in the works. Big pharma companies and smaller biotechs "are feeding off the innovation produced by the universities," says Domoretsky. "All these decisions are driven mainly by talent, and access to intellectual capital." The asking price for top-notch space in Kendall right now is $65 per square foot, according to the report.

And as companies like Novartis grow in Cambridge, where real estate and salaries aren't exactly cheap, they're seeking to balance that by also expanding in lower-cost places, like Shanghai, Domoretsky says.

When Vertex Pharmaceuticals moves from Cambridge to Boston's waterfront Innovation District in 2014 and 2015, that could make Boston a more appealing place for life sciences companies to locate. But Domoretsky points out that there is "not really much lab space in the Innovation District right now." Though there are some biotech startups in the Marine Industrial Park, "there is not a lot of inventory yet," he says.

"We're riding a nice wave right now," says Peter Abair, the director of economic development and global affairs at the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council. "We're getting investment from the traditional pharmaceutical side of the industry, and still generating these second-generation biotech companies like Momenta, Ariad, AVEO, and Ironwood, which are expanding here and making big investments in Massachusetts."

Below is a map from the report showing some of the current and planned development projects in Kendall.

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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