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Life Sciences For Commercial Real Estate: Definitions, Examples And Opportunities

This guide addresses the following questions about the life sciences real estate sector:

  • What is life science real estate?

  • What are the top life sciences real estate markets and top biotech hubs in the U.S.?

  • What are the different types of life sciences facilities?

  • What is unique about life sciences development, construction, building design and operations?

  • Who are the major players?


What Is Life Sciences Real Estate?

Life sciences in real estate refers to an asset class dedicated to providing both laboratory and office space for tenants involved in the study and development of scientific discoveries. Life sciences spaces can either be built from the ground up or converted from an existing office or industrial building.


The race to find solutions that could help combat the coronavirus piqued investor interest in the biotech subsector on a worldwide scale. McKinsey & Co. found that in 2020, venture capitalists poured $36.6B into biotech, up from $25.3B in 2019.


As the pandemic moved into 2021, private equity companies have continued to contribute to the sector. In 2021, private equity companies and the National Institutes of Health put $78B into the sector, up by $8B from 2020, Cushman & Wakefield reported.


What Are The Top Life Sciences Markets in the USA?

Top life sciences markets tend to position themselves around universities with strong life sciences programs, as they can provide accessibility to prospective employees. As of 2023, the top 10 research universities in the USA are:

  1. Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.

  2. Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Md.

  3. MIT, Cambridge, Mass.

  4. Stanford University, Stanford, Calif.

  5. University of California San Francisco

  6. University of California Los Angeles

  7. Yale University,  New Haven, Conn.

  8. University of California San Diego

  9. University of Washington, Seattle, Wash.

  10. University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Penn.

Where are Biotech Companies Located?

Unsurprisingly, the Boston area and coastal California top the list for the largest life sciences clusters by square footage. The following are the top 5 biotechnology centers, by number of companies and related services located in the area (FierceBiotech and TopUniversities):

  1.  Boston (Cambridge)

  2. San Francisco

  3. San Diego

  4. Research Triangle Park, North Carolina

  5. Washington DC and Baltimore

1. Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts

In March 2022, Bloomberg reported that Boston life sciences encompasses the most square feet in both planning and development, consisting of approximately 32M SF, with 62M SF in various stages of development, making it the biotech capital of the world. It is also home to the country's largest pharmaceutical cluster, according to Fiercebiotech. More than 1,000 biotech companies are located in the Boston area (Yahoo Finance), and it is the second-largest life science employment cluster in the US, according to CBRE, in 2022.

As of January 2024, Biscred's database includes contact information for 38,299 professionals at 567 commercial real estate companies that own, operate or serve life sciences companies in the Boston-Cambridge area.


2. San Francisco Bay Area

Competing for the title of biotech capital of the world, San Francisco's life sciences market has a total of 34M SF, with 18M SF in progress, Bloomberg reported. It's the largest area for life sciences employment and the third-largest talent cluster for professionals who work in life sciences (CBRE).

As of January 2024, the Biscred database contains 217 companies that employ 36,926 professionals in life sciences commercial real estate in the San Francisco area.

3. Coastal California (San Diego and Los Angeles)

San Diego has 31.6M SF construction, Times of San Diego reported. San Diego and Los Angeles are No. 5 and 7, respectively, on CBRE's list of the top research talent clusters in the USA.

As of January 2024, Biscred's database includes 276 CRE life science companies with 34,238 contacts in the Coastal California area.

4. Research Triangle Park, North Carolina

Home to the largest research park in the United States, Research Triangle Park covers roughly 7,000 acres in Durham, North Carolina. More than 300 companies employ 65,000 workers, and it gets its "triangle" name because of its geographic proximity to North Carolina State University, Duke University, and UNC Chapel Hill. 

As of February 2024, Biscred's database includes 122 CRE companies in the life science sector in the Raleigh-Durham area, and we have contacts for more than 24,000 professionals who work there. 


5. Washington, DC and Baltimore

The DC-Baltimore metro area is No. 2 in the nation for life science research talent centers (CBRE) and No. 5 for employment in life sciences. It's also home to Johns Hopkins University, which is second to Harvard on Top Universities list of top research universities in the country.

As of February 2024, Biscred's database contains contact information for nearly 30,000 CRE professionals and 137 companies in and around the DC-Maryland area.

What Are Some Trends For The US Biotech And Life Sciences Clusters?

The Boston life sciences market has been skyrocketing to accommodate the fast pace of research throughout the pandemic, leading to an increased demand for lab space. The Boston Globe reported that over the last decade, the volume of Boston labs rose by approximately 22.4M SF.


Meanwhile, Bay Area labs have continued their growth trajectory. A Q1 2022 Cushman & Wakefield report found that 7.9M of SF lab space has been built over the last six years, with 2.9M SF in progress and plans for an additional 16M SF.


Additionally, in March 2022, Times of San Diego reported that the region’s life sciences rent prices rose from $41.52 per SF to $74.88 per SF due to the increase of top talent entering the sector.


What Are The 2 Real Estate Subcategories of Life Sciences?

Life sciences real estate is broken up into two categories: research and development, or R&D, and biotech (which includes biomanufacturing).


The design of each lab varies based on the type of science and the equipment and technology needed for R&D and biomanufacturing. For both categories, it is best for researchers to plan for the long-term needs of their lab space, even if the lab is starting out small, as the research needs can grow over time and more space may be needed.



In order for research to be conducted safely and efficiently, it is important for labs to have the proper build-out that can accommodate their research needs. While labs must follow Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards, the lab design can depend on the equipment and furniture tenants require.  Below are the types of labs:

  • Dry Labs are used for research that is done on computers with spaces and furniture that need to be durable enough to support equipment and wiring;

  • Wet Labs involve the use of liquids and potentially hazardous components in the lab space;

  • Chemistry Lab: As researchers are working with hazardous materials, chemistry labs should be built with proper safety features in mind, including storage solutions, fume hoods and points of exit;

  • Biology Lab: Depending on the microorganisms used within biology research, there is a possibility for bacteria to spread. To protect against cross-contamination, biology research spaces should contain surfaces made of either metal and stainless steel, which can easily be sanitized.



When it comes to life sciences development and architecture, developers have to consider the special needs of healthcare real estate development, biotech R&D, and bio-manufacturing. These operations have specific and legal requirements for handling and disposing of biological and hazardous materials.

For example, workers must use good manufacturing practice, guidelines to ensure that anything being produced is in good condition and meets Food and Drug Administration standards for safe production and delivery. GMPs can be used for work on:

  • Small molecules: drugs that are produced chemically.

  • Large molecules: drugs that are created using aspects of living organisms.


For many researchers, it is easier to create a chemical reaction with small molecules because their chemical structures are more straightforward, whereas large molecules have a more involved structure.


The number of people needed to contribute to the production of large or small molecules may determine the amount of space needed in the lab. However, this doesn’t change the components within the lab.



Biomanufacturing is a process by which a naturally occurring system is used to synthesize products related to food and drink production, as well as vaccine development. Biomanufacturing spaces can be differentiated depending on the size and needs for the facility, according to Bisnow:

  • Pilot sites are typically used for smaller-scale manufacturing and would therefore consist of approximately 100K SF lab space.

  • Large-scale sites consist of 250K SF or more and may need more space and equipment for larger projects, such as that of a pharmaceutical company.


Companies may also consider seeking the services of contractors such as:

  • Contract manufacturing organizations, or CMOs, which assist companies with producing drugs.

  • Contract development manufacturing organizations, which are involved with both creation and production.


Partnering with these professionals may help researchers cut down on the cost of additional lab space and the equipment needed to support the lab.


What Are Some Considerations For Life Sciences Real Estate?

Aside from meeting safety regulations, labs should allow for ease of movement so that people can have offices to hold meetings as well as space to move around safely within the lab. There should also be enough room within the lab to include additional work areas and equipment in case labs need to be modified. Related: 6 Things Life Science Buildings Need

Who Are The Major Players in Life Science Commercial Real Estate?


The following are the largest life science real estate owners and developers to watch.

Alexandria Real Estate Equities

Founded in 1994, Alexandria Real Estate Equities is an S&P 500 real estate investment trust that owns, manages and builds life sciences and technology spaces. As of March 2022, the company had a total of 74.2M SF of properties in North America and has a presence in various large life sciences markets across the U.S., including Boston, San Francisco and New York.


In May 2022, the company marked 25 years as a New York Stock Exchange REIT.


Quick Facts:

  • 16.5M SF of properties are on the radar for eventual construction plans.

  • As of March 2022, the company had $42.8B total stock value.


BioMed Realty

BioMed Realty provides leasing, building, management and financial solutions for life sciences and technology companies. BioMed Realty has been owned by Blackstone since 2016. BioMed Realty has 14.9M SF of properties in various large markets in the U.S. and UK and 4.6M SF of Class A developments dedicated to life sciences in progress.


In April 2022, BioMed Realty Trust announced that it is expanding its visibility in Seattle by taking ownership of a 154K SF building at 1101 Westlake Ave.N. Meta is its tenant.


Quick Facts:

  • Properties are located in Boston, Seattle, San Diego, San Francisco, New York, Boulder, Colorado and the UK.

  • 1.4M SF of offices and labs and 5.6M SF of properties on the radar for eventual construction plans


Healthpeak Properties

Healthpeak Properties focuses on creating buildings for life sciences, medical offices and retirement communities. The company, which is classified as an an S&P 500 REIT, targets its presence with buildings in the top three life sciences markets.


Quick Facts:



Longfellow is a real estate platform focused on providing management, development, leasing, construction and investment services for its life sciences and technology entities. It has worked with pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer and AstraZeneca, among others.

In June 2022, Longfellow said in a statement that the company was focused on expanding its presence in Pennsylvania and Maryland. The company collaborated with the Univeristy of Pennsylvania on a 455K SF lab space, which will be used for R&D and biomanufacturing projects. It also bought One Preserve Parkway, a 191K SF lab asset in Maryland, its first property in the D.C. metro area.


Quick Facts:

  • The company's portfolio comprises 15M SF, with spaces across both the East and West coasts and the UK.


Breakthrough Properties

Breakthrough Properties is a life sciences property company that focuses on bringing forth scientific advancements. The company has properties set to be built in Boston and Cambridge,  San Diego and outside of the U.S. in Oxford, Cambridge and Amsterdam.

In April 2022, Breakthrough Properties announced that it raised $3B that will go toward providing funding for startup companies focused on life sciences. The funding will also go toward its properties, which are in varying stages of development.


Quick Facts:

  • The company receives support through a partnership between capital company Tishman Speyer and investment firm Bellco.


Demand For Labs Still Rising In Life Sciences Sector

As scientific advancements continue to press forward, the demand for lab space is still soaring, and in some regions, even surpassing the amount of lab space available. In a June 2022 interview with Raleigh-based news organization, JLL said that there is approximately 166M SF of lab space available for lease nationwide, but various regions are seeing decreased vacancy. As an example, the Boston market has a 1.2% vacancy rate.


Key Life Sciences Statistics

  • As of June 2022, the region with the most job opportunities was the New York metro area.

  • In 2020, private equity firm Blackstone invested $4.6B into life sciences, andin 2021, private equity firm Bain Capital invested $2B.

Visit Biscred to learn more about how you can use data and technology to enhance your life sciences owner/developer/operator targeting or request a demo here.

The demand for life sciences real estate is showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon. The Wall Street Journal reported that in Q4 2021, a record-high 31M SF of life sciences real estate was in the process of being built, having increased from 19M SF in Q1 2021. Venture capital funding is still being allocated toward life sciences, which would allow major markets to continue on an upward trajectory.


As the life sciences industry continues to grow, now is the time for sales professionals to reach out to commercial real estate professionals to do more business. However, it is important to ensure you have the right information on which commercial real estate contacts to connect with.

Biscred’s sales enablement technology is designed to help you do exactly that, faster than any other tool out there. Learn more about Biscred to find out how it can streamline your prospecting process to get in touch with the right targets faster.


Check out the guide below to learn more about life sciences trends, major players and information about the various facets of this ever-growing industry.


Top Life Sciences News Stories

Peter Moglia To Helm Alexandria Following Resignation Of Co-CEO

Stephen Richardson, Co-CEO of life sciences firm Alexandria Real Estate Equities, retired on July 31. With this news, co-CEO Peter Moglia became the sole CEO. In Q2 2022, the company experienced rises in both net operating income and rent prices.


Big Pharma Becoming ‘Saviors’ Of Boston Lab Market As Biotech Pulls Back 

The Boston biotech market has shown signs of struggle, with employee layoffs, halted growth and decreasing stocks. However, the pharmaceutical industry could step up and take some of the lab spaces once construction is finished.


Bay Area Biotech Firms Inks New York City Lab Deal

Biotech firm Eikon Therapeutics is setting up a headquarters in New York City’s Alexandria Center for Life Sciences. The company’s lease spans 25K SF, and it has hopes of getting extended space for its research and clinical projects.


650K SF Seaport Circle Life Sciences Project Adds To Booming Boston Waterfront

Seaport Circle is a new Boston-based biotech development that was formerly an industrial site. It will consist of offices and labs totaling 650K SF, as well as a terrace, training center and shopping. The development will also be accessible to the Silver Line bus system.


Vying For Biotech Boom, Cities Awaken To The Work Behind The Workforce

The $3.8B Bronzeville Lakefront development is creating jobs to attract local workers who may not have a traditional college education in the hopes of turning them into a career trajectory. These jobs would provide work opportunities for those who are interested in manufacturing and procurement.

Don’t Miss Bisnow’s Premier 2024 Life Sciences Conference This Fall

The second annual International Life Sciences & Biotech Conference will bring together industry leaders and innovators to discuss the latest trends and developments in CRE’s hottest sector. Join major pharmaceutical and biotech companies, academic researchers, venture capitalists and more on September 11 & 12 in Montgomery County, MD for keynote presentations, insightful panels and targeted networking. Learn more about this premier event by clicking here.

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Life Sciences

A Comprehensive Guide

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