Top 8 Life Science Employers to Work for in Massachusetts

Published: Dec 15, 2016

 The 2016 Top 8 Life Science Employers to Work for in Massachusetts December 15, 2016
By Alex Keown, Breaking News Staff

BOSTON – With the pages of the calendar about to flip over into a new year, there will be thousands of biotech job seekers looking for new jobs. One hot spot these applicants are bound to look at is the hotbed of biopharma in Massachusetts, alternatively known as Genetown.

But why would job seekers want to focus on the greater Boston/Cambridge area? Why wouldn’t they?

For starters, these companies are hiring. There are numerous opportunities to work on life-altering and life-saving therapeutics in Massachusetts.

For those scientists looking for a new career, or a fresh start to an established career, there are eight companies that are certain to capture your attention. These eight life sciences companies were highlighted by the Boston Globe in its November “Top Places to Work” survey. The survey measured, among other things, how happy employees are at these companies. The more positive workers were about their employer on an anonymous questionnaire, the higher those companies ranked, the Globe said. Other items survey users included were: direction, execution, connection, management, work, pay and benefits.

After tallying the results of the survey, the Globe separated the companies into four size categories: small (50 to 99 workers); medium (100 to 249); large (250 to 999); and largest (1,000 or more). The Globe’s list contains familiar and not-so-familiar companies in Massachusetts.

BioSpace picked out the eight life science companies from the list and describes below the important work these companies have undertaken.

The 2016 Top 8 Life Science Employers to Work for in Massachusetts
Vertex Pharma
EMD Serono and MilliporeSigma
Moderna Therapeutics
Alnylam Pharma
Kirwan Surgical Products
Voyager Therapeutics

1. Vertex Pharmaceuticals

Coming in at number 14 on the list of the largest employers in Massachusetts is Vertex Pharmaceuticals . The Boston-based company known for its cystic fibrosis treatments, including Orkambi and Kalydeco, and employs more than 1,400 in Massachusetts. Vertex is poised to be the subject of a television program that focuses on how the Vertex team worked diligently to develop therapies for diseases such as hepatitis C, HIV and cystic fibrosis. The program would be an adaptation of Barry Werth’s “The Billion Dollar Molecule: One Company’s Quest for the Perfect Drug.”

Orkambi, approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in the summer of 2015, is a combination of Vertex’s other CF drug, Kalydeco and lumacaftor. Orkambi will be used to treat patients with the F508del mutation of cystic fibrosis, a mutation the lead drug cannot treat on its own. Orkambi has the potential to reach about seven times the patients that Kalydeco. The drug is expected to bring in nearly $1 billion this year, Forbes reported.

Vertex has total employment of about 1,658 people. The majority are based in Boston. Last year Vertex was listed at number 13 on the Globe’s list.

2. EMD Serono and MilliporeSigma

Number 20 on the Boston Globe’s list of largest employers, Rockland, Mass.-based MilliporeSigma employs a little more than 2,300 in the state and 10,000 globally. MilliporeSigma is the U.S. subsidiary of Germany-based Merck KGaA. EMD Serono is the biopharmaceutical business of Merck KGaA. In November, EMD Serono got a nice boost when the FDA gave priority review status to the company’s biologics license application for avelumab. This review relates to avelumab's proposed use in patients with metastatic Merkel cell carcinoma. The priority review will reduce the time for approval from about 10 months to six.

3. Moderna Therapeutics

Coming in at number 26 on the Globe’s list of large employers, Cambridge-based Moderna employs 365 people. Moderna focuses on the development of engineered mRNA, with a goal of inserting the modified mRNA into cells, which will then become individual drug factories and fight diseases and infections. The company is ambitious and well loaded with about $1.4 billion in cash. It’s spending $100 million on a new manufacturing facility. Moderna has partnership deals with Merck & Co. , Vertex, AstraZeneca , and Alexion Pharmaceuticals , and funding from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

In October, Moderna was named a “top three” employer by Science. That ranking was based on three primary criteria, “Innovative Leader in the Industry, Treats Employees with Respect and Has Clear Vision.”

4. Alnylam Pharmaceuticals

RNAi company Alnylam Pharmaceuticals is looking at becoming a multi-product company by 2020. Earlier this year, the company broke ground on its new $200 million 200,000 square-foot manufacturing facility in Norton, Mass. The company expects the site to be operational by 2018 – something that was intended to spark a spurt of hiring. However, Alnylam stumbled earlier this fall when the company announced it was discontinuing development of revusiran for hereditary ATTR amyloidosis with cardiomyopathy (hATTR-CM). The company discontinued the drug development after reports indicated more patients on the drug died than those on placebo. In all, there were 18 deaths, but the company did not disclose the numbers of those on the drug versus placebo. The shuttering of that program has raised questions about the other drugs in Alnylam’s pipeline. Alnylam came in at number 31 on the Boston Globe’s list. The company has 450 employees, 411 of whom are based in Cambridge.

5. TraceLink

Based in North Reading, Mass., TraceLink is a “track and trace” company that connects the life sciences supply chain with an effort to eliminate counterfeit prescription drugs from the marketplace. TraceLink, which came in at number 29 on the Boston Globe’s list for medium-sized companies, closed out the year with a $51.5 million round of Series C funding that will enable the company to accelerate its growth plans. The company’s technology is currently used by more than 450 life sciences companies to meet track and trace regulations. TraceLink expects that an interoperable system for tracking and tracing authentic prescription medicines will be required by law in 50 different countries. TraceLink came in at number 29 on the Globe’s list of medium-sized employers. The company has 186 employees at its North Reading facility.

6. Kirwan Surgical Products

Medical device developer Kirwan Surgical Products was ranked number 30 by the Boston Globe among medium-sized companies. The company develops products for microsurgical specialties, including neurosurgery, ophthalmology, ear, nose and throat, plastic, reconstructive, and orthopedic surgery. Kirwan employs 123 people at its Marshfield, Mass. site.

7. Addgene

Based in Cambridge, Mass., Addgene is a nonprofit plasmid repository. It took the number one spot in the small employer category. This is the first year Addgene has appeared on the Globe’s list. The company has 50 employees, all based in Massachusetts. The organization has a goal to assemble a library of published plasmids for use in research and discovery. Through its platform, Addgene said scientists will always have access to “data related to the materials they request.” Plasmids that the company has collected are used for research into a variety of disease areas, such as cancer, heart disease and neurodegenerative disease.

8. Voyager Therapeutics

Also based in Cambridge, Voyager Therapeutics came in at the number 23 spot for smaller employers. Voyager is a gene-therapy company focused on developing treatments for diseases of the central nervous system, including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s. In addition to developing its own programs, Voyager has several collaborations with the University of Massachusetts Medical School and Sanofi Genzyme . This year marks the first time Voyager made the Globe’s list as well. The company currently has 60 employees.

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