Jun 4, 2024 - News

San Diego's life sciences industry dipped in 2023

an illustration of blood testing, a microscope, and a cutout of a DNA strand

Illustration: Tiffany Herring/Axios

San Diego's life sciences industry lost jobs and companies last year, but is still more than 10% larger than it was five years ago.

Why it matters: Life sciences and biotech remains one of the region's largest industries, and its $120,743 average wage last year outpaced the region's $99,000 median household income.

Driving the news: The largest biotech convention in the world is at the San Diego Convention Center this week, with over 20,000 attendees gathering for the Biotechnology Innovation Organization's annual event.

What he's saying: Mayor Todd Gloria started the conference Tuesday with a history lesson familiar to locals: decades ago, the city donated hundreds of acres to new University of California campus in San Diego, reserved the Torrey Pines Mesa for science and research, and an innovation economy flourished.

Yes, but: The number of life sciences companies in San Diego declined from 2,215 in 2022 to 2,153 last year, according to a report by California Life Sciences.

  • Local employment in the sector followed the same path, 76,983 in 2022 to 75,458.
  • The region's decline is consistent with the industry as a whole, where public firms decreased 6% last year, driven by a decline in the availability of capital.

The big picture: Biocom California, a San Diego-based industry advocacy group, assessed the sector's local economic output last year at $56.6 billion.

Flashback: There have been some big life sciences deals in San Diego this year, such as Johnson & Johnson's $2 billion purchase of Ambrx Biopharma.

What we're watching: Downtown developers are trying to establish a downtown life sciences hub, but so far there are few tenants and millions of square feet of space hitting the market.

  • It's not at all clear the behemoth industry is interested in moving downtown.
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