By Timothy Miller, Ph.D.
Within the broader field of biotechnology, the focus on gene therapy has expanded rapidly in recent years. The primary reason is that many promising development programs are reaching later stages and are headed for the finish line. Recently, the FDA’s advisory panel unanimously backed a new gene therapy intended to treat a rare eye disease, potentially leading to the first FDA-approved gene therapy in the U.S. Our progress in this sector is expanding and may lead to gene therapies that can deliver curative treatments for many significant areas of unmet need in healthcare in the near future. As these development programs advance, a growing need is presented for gene therapy research and manufacturing centers.
More than 30 years ago, at the dawn of the biotechnology era, the first generation of companies set up shop in areas that offered several key attributes, including a science-educated workforce, proximity to leading research centers, access to capital, space to accommodate often custom-designed technologies, and tax breaks and other incentives. These factors gave birth to the established hubs in Cambridge and Silicon Valley and also have provided support for smaller hubs in locations including Ann Arbor, MI; Philadelphia; and Denver. With gene therapy, we are at the dawn of another era of potentially rapid growth in the sector. And companies planning for their futures will once again consider a range of factors in identifying the optimal locations for gene therapy research and production centers.