The rapidly growing pharma industry utilizes various technology-driven methods, devices, and solutions to improve the access to desirable drugs. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning algorithms for drug discovery and development, novel drug delivery mechanisms, and advanced analytics for pharma supply chain management are some examples of startup-driven innovation in the sector.
Top 5 Global Startup Hubs: Pharma
Using our StartUs Insights Discovery Platform, we analyzed the geographic distribution of global activity in the pharmaceutical industry. We identified 43 regional hubs* that observe high activity in developing technology-driven solutions across the industry such as AI-based drug discovery and development, drug delivery, biopharmaceutical development, and stem cell therapy, to name a few.
Within the hubs, we analyzed a sample of 1.248 startups employing technology-driven solutions to innovate in the industry. Silicon Valley, Boston, New York City, London, and San Diego are home to 413 pharma startups and scaleups* and account for 32% of global pharma startup activity. Let us have a look at some of the innovative solutions from these 5 top hubs.
Based on a sample of 1.248 startups, North America observes the highest startup activity with over 60% of the global pharma startup activity. Nearly a third of emerging pharma companies are based out of Europe, with hubs in Paris, Zurich, and Tel Aviv. Despite accounting for a smaller number of startups, Asian hubs in Singapore and Bangalore see increasing activity in the pharma sector.
1. Silicon Valley: 141 Startups
Advancements in nanotechnology and microfluidics, in combination with Silicon Valley’s semiconductor technology expertise, make this region a big pharma and biotechnology hub. Some of the buzzwords going around in this pharma hub include pharma 4.0 and drug discovery and development, as well as the implementation of current good manufacturing practices (cGMP)-based pharmaceutical production.
Based out of Foster City in Silicon Valley, Mirum Pharma is a pharma startup working on developing medicines for rare liver diseases such as alagille syndrome (ALGS), progressive familial intrahepatic cholestasis (PFIC), and intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP). The startup’s candidates Maralixibat and Volixibat are orally-administered investigational therapies to tackle rare cholestatic liver diseases and inhibit the apical sodium-dependent bile acid transporter (ASBT) protein, respectively.
2. Boston: 114 Startups
The Boston Metropolitan Area is a major pharma and biotech hub. Advanced robotics, several MedTech startups, and collaboration with local academia makes this hub suitable for pharma R&D. Emerging Boston pharma startups are looking to take advantage of this ecosystem to develop solutions ranging from molecular diagnostics to addressing certain unmet medical needs of patients.
Cambridge-based startup Casma Therapeutics is building a product engine to identify and drug-specific autophagy drivers. Based on disease-specific insights into key autophagy and lysosomal drivers, the startup works to intervene throughout the autophagy and lysosomal process. The startup’s approach spans every facet of the autophagy system including initiation, the formation of the autophagosome, its resulting fusion with lysosomes, lysosomal biogenesis, and its proper functioning. The autophagy engine helps identify treatments for muscular disorders, liver and inflammatory diseases, as well as neurodegeneration.
3. New York City: 74 Startups
In addition to its vibrant startup and innovation ecosystem, New York City is also a leading pharma hub for biomedical R&D. Given the successful development of translational research in the region, the City is attracting big pharma companies to establish innovation hubs. For example, Pfizer is collaborating with seven hospitals and research centers to strengthen and provide partners its antibody libraries and technical research tools.
Based out of Hempstead, Dawah Pharma is building a pharmaceutical facility for sterile injectables and sterile ophthalmics. The startup’s patented drug delivery devices enable the delivery of ophthalmic drugs without using antimicrobial preservatives. Dawah Pharma is currently working on drugs to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), as well as antipsychotic and paralytic drugs.
4. London: 73 Startups
The UK’s pharmaceutical sector is mainly clustered around the so-called Golden Triangle, which includes London, Cambridge, and Oxford. Thanks to its high-quality infrastructure and higher levels of investment, London is at the heart of the UK’s pharmaceutical sector. Some of the pharma, biotech, and life sciences activities in London include drug R&D and manufacturing. This pharma hub is working on solutions ranging from the production of generic drugs and small molecules to therapeutic proteins and other specialist services.
Kuano is a London-based startup that utilizes quantum mechanisms to design novel enzyme inhibitors and other molecular designs. The startup combines quantum simulation with machine learning to tackle three main challenges for drug R&D – dosage, toxicity, and resistance. This allows Kuano to develop effective drugs based on the mechanisms of the target enzymes.
5. San Diego: 38 Startups
San Diego is home to hundreds of startups in the field of pharma, biotechnology, and life sciences. With high-quality academic institutions in the region, San Diego pharma startups work on solutions that span medical technology and diagnostics, apart from pharmaceuticals. This pharma hub is also home to big life sciences communities such as Biocom and the San Diego Biotechnology Network (SDBN).
Dare Bioscience is a San Diego-based pharma startup creating drugs for tackling female health issues. The startup looks to identify, collaborate, acquire, and develop drug candidates that expand options and outcomes for female inconveniences. Dare Bioscience’s products in Phase III clinical trials tackle bacterial vaginosis and contraception-related issues. In addition, some other drugs in the startup’s pipeline look to combat vulva and vaginal atrophy, female sexual arousal disorder, and drugs to help maintain pregnancies.
Emerging pharma companies are working to better treat, and even cure, various conditions that impact people globally. Pharma startups are using cell and gene therapies, along with biologics, to create drugs with higher efficacy. Some of these health conditions that pharma startups are tackling include infectious and neglected diseases, sexually transmitted diseases, and obesity, as well as antibiotic resistance, autoimmune disorders, and addiction management.
*We define a hub as the regional geographic center of activity for this topic. It covers the center point with a radius of 100km. For this report, we define startups as those founded after 2015.