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Pittsburgh's place at BIO2005


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Very interesting article that explains much about why and how Pittsburgh got left off the "A list" at the LifeSciences party.

Although overall there is some very credible points in the article, mostly that Pittsburgh is a great area for the new BIOsciences but has gotten out of the gate only in the last few decades or so, where Minneapolis and Philadelphia have been putting down roots and building critical mas for over a century, the article does point out some flaws from the BIO2005 ranking system.

First a lot of weight is given to # employed in the metroplex by lifesciences companies, and as the article states "if you want lots of employees you need to be running McDonald franchises" or something to that point. Just because you have several hundred "employees" doesn't always mean your doing great Life Science, there is a link but it is not absolute.

Another point is that this conference focused on something that a "Fortune 500 of 1980" conference would, in that world Pittsburgh would be in the top 2 or 3, but again the joke of a conference like that would be that from 1980 to 1990 the top 10 industrial powerhouses switched from the Detriots and Clevelands and Buffalos and Milwaukees to the Atlantas, Houstons, San Diegos and Phoenixes. It is growth rate that is more relevant then current status. Philly and Minneapolis will not likely dwindle as Biotech hubs anytime soon (and I hope they don't) but where is the NEXT big bio hub? Pittsburgh could be one of those areas, as the article states Pittsburgh may only be one big tech startup away from cementing a critical mass and emerging as a true biotech hub. Late start (only since the 80s and early 90s) but definelty potential. ;)

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The take home message from that article, however, is that Pittsburgh lacks an "anchor". While Pgh may develop biotech, the investors are not in Pgh. Often times the big companies buy up the start-ups or license the developments from the start-ups thus further centralizing the biotech market in the biotech hubs. A case in point is DC which, while having plenty of start-ups, lacks an anchor and also is nowhere on that list. The developments out of DC are often licensed out to the big pharma companies in the Boston, NJ, Philadelphia, and Bay areas and further R&D is conducted there. Thus places like DC and Pittsburgh serve as incbators but the bulk of the work takes place where the money is (the biotech hubs).

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urban you hit the nail on the head with more then just biotech (tech in general has suffered a similar fate, Lycos, Lexis-Nexis, Ariba, Marconi and Nokia all were founded here or have strong Pittsburgh roots via aquisitions but now reside elsewhere in large part). They are getting this anchor thing down more with more and more Pittsburgh based for profit and not for profit venture firms and UPMC and the Greenhouses trying to make those companies STICK in the region. Respironics, WorldHealth, Mylan and others are some promising examples of that, as well as the NA HQ of Bayer and the NA Consumer Products HQ of SKGlaxo.

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