The BioHealth Capital Region, 2021 and Beyond: After an Unprecedented Year, What’s Next? 

The BioHealth Capital Region (BHCR) had a remarkable 2020, and there is palpable momentum and excitement in the air as we approach the end of Q1 2021. How will the pandemic impact the region’s push to be “Top 3 by 2023?” Where will this significant momentum lead? These questions are yet to be answered.

This year’s BioHealth Capital Region Forum, which will take place in September 2021, will be a must-attend virtual event for those seeking insights into where the region is headed. 

The BHCR Forum’s theme will be the convergence of Big Bio and Big Data. The event should be fascinating given the pandemic’s unprecedented nature and its profound, ongoing impact on the region.     

2020 was dominated by the pandemic and put a global spotlight on the region’s rich life science capabilities. Nowhere was this more evident than in the race to develop a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine.

The BHCR became the epicenter of COVID-19 vaccine development, showcasing the region’s ample life science talent, vast biopharma infrastructure, and strong working relationships with government research and regulatory agencies like the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), among others. BHCR companies like Emergent Biosolutions, Novavax, AstraZeneca, and a host of other vaccine support companies, including myriad diagnostic testing organizations, came together to fight the novel coronavirus.

Rich Bendis, President, and CEO of BioHealth Innovation (BHI), noted at the 2020 BioHealth Capital Region Forum that the region saw $7B in investment in just a six-month period in 2020. Bendis also noted in a call with BioBuzz that JLL reported that the BHCR had surpassed the San Francisco bio hub in total NIH funding. 

Growth sparked by the pandemic was significant, but the vaccine sector was not the only one that thrived in 2020. The region’s cell and gene therapy industry continued to expand, the Charlottesville, Virginia, or CVille subcluster enjoyed a strong year, and several established life science organizations like Neximmune and Sensei Biotherapeutics Inc. laid the groundwork for IPOs that occurred in January 2021.

Where will this momentum manifest itself? How will 2020 influence or reconfigure the BHCR ecosystem in 2021? 

BHI will be hosting a webinar series throughout 2021 that will explore these questions and more. The first webinar will focus on digital health within the BHCR and is tentatively scheduled for March 25th from 1-3 pm eastern standard time. Other webinars will focus on the following topics:

  • Big Bio and Big Data convergence’s influence on talent and hiring needs
  • Big Bio and Big Data collaboration opportunities in the BHCR
  • Non-dilutive and equity funding in the region
  • What the BHCR’s learned from the COVID-19 vaccine push and how Big Bio and Big Data convergence can help fight the next pandemic

The region is humming with activity as COVID-19 vaccinations accelerate, and the pandemic begins to recede. There are so many questions about what the post-COVID BHCR will look like. 

How will commercial real estate development be impacted as working from home has become the norm? What have regulatory agencies like the NIH, the FDA, and NIST, all of which are located in Montgomery County, Maryland—and companies learned from the accelerated vaccine development timelines that condensed decades of work into less than a year? 

Will the notion of biotech density and clustering become less critical due to virtual work ecosystems? Will digital health, which became more mainstream during the pandemic, keep expanding and evolving? What action will the U.S. government, supported by the BHCR, take to prepare for the next pandemic? 

These are just a few of the pressing questions BioBuzz will be following throughout 2021. 

We already hear about potential, new, groundbreaking public-private partnerships, an influx of international and U.S.-based biopharma companies into the region, new investment in development projects and support infrastructure, and the push for more BHCR wet lab space to support the cluster’s impending growth.

The BioBuzz team, in tandem with BHI’s webinar series, will help keep you informed as the BHCR enters an exciting new phase in its history.