Hey, San Francisco—when it comes to biotech, Boston has you beat

A new study says that while Massachusetts falls behind Silicon Valley in many ways, we’re still ahead in biotech.

A scientist hard at work at local biotech giant Biogen. –Suzanne Kreiter / The Boston Globe

If you’re worried by the fact that Boston has fallen behind San Francisco and Silicon Valley when it comes to software and online startups, you can take solace in knowing that when it comes to biotech, Boston—Cambridge, really—reigns supreme.

At least that’s what a recent study out of MIT found, according to The Economist. The study discovered that because of its high concentration of research institutions (like MIT itself), Massachusetts receives $351 in funding per head from the National Institutes of Health. That’s way more than California’s paltry-by-comparison $88. The article points out that this research ecosystem is also, incidentally, one of the main reasons General Electric decided to pick up and move their headquarters to the area.


The biotech scene originated in Massachusetts because the scientists who founded Biogen and Genzyme, two Boston-area-based biotech drugmakers, came from nearby universities and institutions. Those two biotech giants drew more scientists who founded new companies as the years went on, according to The Economist.

But another reason for Boston’s burgeoning biotech scene is the “density of intellectuals,’’ The Economist says. As opposed to San Francisco and New York, Boston’s close-knit community and small size means it’s easy to make introductions and then follow up in meetings.

There are some key differences between the west and east coast biotech scenes, including the lifestyle—Boston’s bio tech entrepreneurs apparently tend to act more like grown-ups:

“Boston’s biotech crowd are a more formal bunch, who wear proper shirts—and tuck them in. They know which fork is for the salad because salad is not the only thing they eat. Beer is the recreational drug of choice, rather than cannabis.’’

We would also like to call attention to the fact that nowhere in this article did we ask San Francisco how it liked them apples.

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