Johns Hopkins University Peabody Research Library

BHCR passes San Francisco in NIH funding

The National Institutes of Health provides significant funding for drug development research to universities, companies, and organizations. Over the course of 2020, the NIH provided a significant amount of funding to the BioHealth Capital Region.

The top recipients of NIH funding in the BHCR were research universities, with Johns Hopkins University topping the list with $807,432,003 in financing for different research programs. The top 10 recipients of NIH funding in the BioHealth Capital Region secured more than $2.18 billion in financing. Life sciences organizations within the state of Maryland secured $2.3 billion in NIH funding, an increase from the $1.9 billion granted in 2019.

Since the year 2000 when life sciences companies within Maryland received $863 million, the state has seen significant growth in NIH funding, with Johns Hopkins alone surpassing that this year. In fact, the BHCR surpassed California’s Bay Area in NIH funding. Organizations across that important biotech region garnered $1.83 billion in NIH grant monies.

According to the NIH, the $807 million in grant money awarded to Johns Hopkins was a result of 1,452 different awards over the course of the year. According to Hopkins, its School of Nursing was ranked number one among nursing schools for NIH funding in 2020. Grants range across topics from health equity, resilience, gender norms, aging, cardiovascular health, the health of Indigenous people, HIV, trauma, violence, and more, according to the university.

Frederick, Md. based Leidos Biomedical Research, Inc. came in second with $614,137,041 from the NIH. The funds were part of 97 different grant awards. Among the contracts the company won was a $2,183,412 National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) contract to provide maintenance and enhancement to two software systems used by the agency.

Looking at the infusion of NIH monies into the district, as well as finances from the federal government’s COVID-19 initiative formerly known as Operation Warp Speed, Peter Briskman, executive managing director at JLL, said it’s something that makes people notice.

“When a region gets funded the way we have been, it’s one of the reasons you go from a top 10 biotech cluster to a top three,” Briskman said.


Looking at NIH funding for the region, Briskman said the government agency has seemed to focus its grants across several areas, including cell therapy and bioterrorism, with a trend in financing towards vaccines and therapeutics.

It’s not just NIH and Warp Speed funding that is boosting the region. Briskman, who runs the brokerage division for JLL, said there are 15 different companies in Maryland alone that have ongoing Phase III programs. That kind of advanced pipeline is something that draws a significant amount of attention from investors and larger pharma companies eager to flex their M&A muscles.

Briskman noted that public offerings were important to companies across the BHCR. Again, looking at Maryland, he said life sciences companies that went public in 2020 raised $1.3 billion.

Another feather in the region’s hat, particularly in Maryland Briskman said, is the fact that companies are able to remain in the area. Real estate costs are low, compared to the biotech hubs in Boston and San Francisco, and there is also a strong workforce in the area. Briskman said Maryland has the highest concentration of PhDs in the United States. While lab space may be low right now, real estate companies are building on spec across the area, he added.

“That hasn’t happened in over 10 years,” Briskman exclaimed.

The size of the NIH grants drops off significantly after Leidos Biomedical Research. The remaining members of the top 10 recipients in the BioHealth Capital Region include:

OrganizationAwardsFunding Amount
University of Maryland at Baltimore445$230,060,143
University of Virginia408$169,622,494
Virginia Commonwealth University231$90,243,698
George Washington University108$86,807,134
The Emmes Company, LLC25$74,478,159
Technical Resources International, Inc.10$58,511,878
University of Maryland at College Park155$58,406,802
Georgetown University130$50,343,425
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Alex Keown is a freelance journalist who writes about a variety of subjects including the pharma, biotech, and life science industries. Prior to freelancing, Alex has served as a staff writer and editor for several publications.