Nov 7, 2023 - News

Exclusive: Chicago area gets $10 million for new biotech hub

illustration of a person looking into a microscope and hands holding a beaker on a background made of dollar bills and science notes

Illustration: Tiffany Herring/Axios

The federal government is investing in a new Chicago-area hub designed, in part, to keep local medical researchers from leaving for the coasts, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: The new hub could help Chicago inventors get their research into commercial products faster and create more jobs in the area.

Driving the news: The National Institutes of Health is contributing to a new $10.4 million investment to help promote the discoveries of medical scientists and pair them up with capital to get their innovations to market.

  • $4 million will come from an NIH grant, while the Searle Funds at the Chicago Community Trust and the Walder Foundation are donating the remainder.
  • The hub will bring together nine local institutions, including Northwestern University, University of Chicago and University of Illinois Chicago.

Of note: Chicago universities took in $5.8 billion in NIH funding from 2017 to 2022.

What they're saying: "We have so many great researchers here," Chicago Biomedical Consortium executive director Michelle Hoffmann tells Axios. "But when it comes time to spin out those ideas into companies, they go to the coasts because that's where the capital is at."

Between the lines: Local biotech companies don't receive nearly the same amount of venture capital funding as their coastal counterparts, according to numbers from the CBC.

  • Although biomedical innovation is just a sliver of what Chicago's tech scene produces, the new investment offers a shot in the arm to the sector.

The bottom line: Chicago could compete with places like Silicon Valley and Boston to become the biomedical capital of the country.

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