The Columbus Region has long been known as a hub for the financial services, insurance and retail business industries. Now, it is time to add biotech to the list.
Across the region, from medical breakthroughs to cutting-edge technology, a series of large successes have made the region a major player in the rapidly growing cell and gene therapy space. Atop the groundwork laid 20 years ago, the Columbus Region has quietly become home to one of the most dynamic life sciences industries in the country.
And finally, people outside the region are starting to take notice.
All the Pieces
The regional growth strategy laid out by One Columbus involves developing and attracting the world’s most competitive companies, growing a highly adaptive workforce, preparing communities for the future and inspiring innovation from corporate, academic and public sectors.
Biotech, and specifically cell and gene therapy, is proving to be one of those bright spots of innovation. The emerging field, which involves transplanting human cells or administering genetic material to treat disease, could bring Columbus-made innovations to patients around the world.
The Columbus Region, with its complete biotech value chain, is positioned to succeed in a way that few other regions in the country are. Ohio State University and Nationwide Children’s Hospital planted the seeds years ago with academic research. The Abigail Wexner Research Center at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, a global leader in gene therapy, is prompting an outgrowth of related investments and spinoffs that are beginning to bear fruit.
Nationwide Children’s formed Andelyn Biosciences, an affiliate company that will manufacture gene therapy products for the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry. When it begins operating in 2023, the company’s $200 million, 140,000-square-foot facility will be the Columbus Region’s first commercial-scale Good Manufacturing Practices clinical manufacturing facility devoted to gene therapies.
Sarepta Therapeutics, a leader in precision genetic medicine for rare diseases, is expanding its Gene Therapy Center of Excellence by opening a $30 million, 85,000-square-foot research facility near Easton Town Center. The Cambridge-based company has a long-term relationship with Nationwide Children’s and acquired the hospital’s Myonexus Therapeutics spinoff.
Formed in May with $200 million in funding, the Battelle-founded startup AmplifyBio is focusing on the research and development of next-generation therapies from a 210,000-square-foot lab in West Jefferson.
Forge Biologics in June announced a $120 million capital raise, the largest Series B fundraise in the history of the state, to support gene therapy manufacturing in Grove City.
“It’s remarkable how much investment comes into the area,” says J. Kelly Ganjei, president and CEO of AmplifyBio. “Not only do I find a real hotbed of activity and technology, but the most pleasantly surprising thing is really the people and culture of this area. There are so many other companies that are in a similar space to ours that are customers or partners.”
From the manufacturing and distribution capabilities of Cardinal Health to the pool of investment capital available through Rev1, the Ohio Innovation Fund and Drive Capital, the region is flush with resources to support a growing industry.
On top of all the infrastructure in place, One Columbus, JobsOhio and local governments are stepping up business attraction efforts to make large investments financially viable.
“We’re a fully capable region,” says Kenny McDonald, president and CEO of One Columbus. “And we have people knocking on our door because of that.”
The global pharmaceutical giant Amgen is among those who came knocking. In June, Amgen announced plans to build a $365 million, 270,000-squarefoot manufacturing facility in the New Albany International Business Park. The shovel-ready site and cooperation among local stakeholders were among major selling points for the Columbus Region.
“A collaborative spirit, ‘The Columbus Way,’ is something that I think is top of mind for a lot of people,” says Eddie Pauline, president and CEO of nonprofit trade group BioOhio. “When I’ve been involved in attraction projects, clients have appreciated the unified front that the region demonstrates when it’s attracting companies.
It’s rare for a community to be so aligned when it comes to these types of projects. To have OSU, Nationwide Children’s, One Columbus, local governments, all activated very quickly to create an attractive package—that’s something unique and something that a lot of other communities cannot execute as efficiently.”
A Growing Impact
Despite its recent entry into the industry, the Columbus Region is firmly on the map as a national hub for biotech, with a particular specialty in cell and gene therapy. Still, the best days may lie ahead.
“This is an emerging market. We’re in the early innings in this space,” says Michael Triplett, co-founder and CEO of ArmatusBio, who previously led Nationwide Children’s spinoff Myonexus Therapeutics. “And then, 10 or 20 years down the road, we may think of biotech like we think of financial services or banking here, and it becomes an economic pillar of this community. I think this is a generational opportunity.”
Developing and attracting talent will be a focal point. In the last five years, colleges and universities in the Columbus Region have granted more than 8,700 degrees in biology, biomedical science, chemistry and pharmacy. There are plenty more jobs to fill, ranging from accounting, human resources and legal— and of course, bioengineers.
With a $100 million pledge from JobsOhio, two area powerhouses—Ohio State University and Nationwide Children’s Hospital—are building a new, 270-acre, $1 billion Innovation District that will bring together students, researchers, city leaders, Fortune 500 companies and new startups to spur growth in the STEM community.
Companies are not just making investments, but also putting down roots in the area.
“We’re not just a Boston company that’s dabbling in Columbus,” says Dr. Louise Rodino-Klapac, senior vice president of gene therapy for Sarepta. “We’re here to stay and build our genetic center of excellence here in Columbus for a long-term opportunity. It’s definitely been seen as a growing hub for biotech and [is] well-recognized for the talent.”
The Columbus Region has an opportunity to establish an even stronger identity in the space. After all, it was only about 20 years ago that Nationwide Children’s launched its Center for Gene Therapy.
“I think we’ve reached a point where the city and the state and the institutions should be really proud of what they have done,” says Matthew McFarland, vice president of commercialization and industry relations at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. “But in no way, shape or form do I think we have done everything we can do. I think we’re all still hungry.”
Contact our experienced team to see how we can help your company become a part of the Columbus Region’s diverse and steady growth.