Economic Development

New York gambles $1.15B in new funds and incentives in search of a biotech jackpot

Of all the biotech hub wannabes in the world, and they are legion, New York has perhaps one of the best claims on top-rank status. Manhattan is home to some of the world’s greatest research institutions, including some involved directly in the immuno-oncology revolution now underway. And it has a small but growing hub in Midtown to help house a boom.

Today, it also can add a $650 million initiative from the governor to help spark a boom. And then New York Mayor Bill deBlasio followed up with a $500 million effort aimed at creating 9,000 biotech jobs over the next 10 years.

The city program includes $100 million investment for a new life sciences campus on Manhattan’s East Side or in neighboring Long Island City; a $50 million investment to create new work space at 8 top research institutions; $20 million in new seed funds;  and $300 million in tax incentives.

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration has come up with a mix of tax incentives and new venture cash to make New York state top of mind for any up-and-coming biotech in the world looking for someplace to call home. The list of goodies includes:

  • $250 million in tax incentives that can be doled out in $10 million allotments to existing biotechs. This includes a 15% tax credit on approved R&D expenses for new life science companies. And there’s a 25% tax credit for angel investors who invest in biotechs, worth up to $250,000.
  • There’s a new $200 million-plus venture fund, which the state is providing $100 million to in matching cash, for early-stage companies. There’s grant and prize money available to startups, which will be doled out in competitions looking for the best and brightest upstarts.
  • There’s also a $200 million program to back up capital investments, with land and office space available at dozens of state colleges.

The goal here is to rival the two golden states in biotech: Massachusetts and California. Just like everybody else in the economic development game, New York state and city officials are shooting for bragging rights to being home to an industry that is known for good, high-paying jobs focused on developing important new drugs.

But these local initiatives rarely pan out as elected officials like to boast they will. Florida Governor Jeb Bush invested heavily in new research institutions, looking to build the foundation for a life sciences industry of their own. But they never attracted the kind of research support needed, and now some of the institutions are simply falling apart after failing to generate the jobs they promised. California has seen little tangible progress with its stem cell initiative. And Texas is still trying to seed the industry with cancer research cash.

New York at least doesn’t have to start from scratch. But it still has a long way to go.


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