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They’re not yet Bostons, but these 5 areas are growing into hubs for life sciences innovation

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Chicago life science

Boston might be the top hub for life sciences in the U.S., but there are lots of cities hot on its tail.

In addition to ranking the top 10 clusters for life sciences in 2012, an annual report from Jones Lang LaSalle’s highlighted some fast-growing cities for life sciences innovation. Two of the top five emerging cities, Westchester/New Haven and Salt Lake City, weren’t even on the same list last year.

Here’s a closer look at the initiatives, startups and innovation climates in the top five up-and-coming healthcare hubs.

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Westchester/New Haven

The corridor between Boston and New Jersey is becoming a hub of its own thanks to new incubator developments and state and local efforts to encourage life sciences research and investment. The report also calls attention to the presence of a well-educated workforce and strong higher educational institutions and research hospitals in this area.

Aside from bigger pharmaceutical companies like Acorda Therapeutics (NASDAQ:ACOR), Achillon Pharmaceuticals and Alexion Pharmaceuticals, the area is home to some promising smaller companies. QUICK LLC, for one, is developing a saliva-based mobile diagnostic tool. Rib-X Pharmaceuticals, co-founded by a Nobel Prize-winning Yale professor, is in phase 3 testing of its monotherapy for bacterial infections based on an understanding of the 3-D properties of antibiotics.

Chicago

As the home to Abbott Laboratories, Baxter and Walgreens — and startup resources liked the Healthbox accelerator and Chicago Innovation Mentors — Chicago has also become a space for spinoffs and startups, especially in health IT. A few on our radar are Blue Cross Blue Shield spinoff Blue Health Intelligence, which provides healthcare data analysis, and Pervasive Health, a data analysis company founded by entrepreneurs in the mobile industry.

Denver

Ten higher education institutions in the Denver area have life sciences research programs, according to the report, and Colorado has five venture firms with partial or full focus on funding local life sciences companies. It also has Spectrum Pharmaceuticals and the Fitzsimons Life Science District.

Nearby Aurora is the headquarters of a company taking an innovative approach to fighting hospital infections, Sharklet Technologies. Meanwhile, University of Colorado spinoff Mosaic Biosciences, which is developing synthetic materials for wound healing, is located in Boulder.

Cleveland/Columbus/Cincinnati

Statewide initiatives like the Third Frontier Project and a collaboration between Case Western Reserve University, University of Cincinnati and Ohio State University to streamline the IRB approval process have made Ohio an affordable and supportive environment for launching a life sciences company.

MedCity News is based in Cleveland, so we’re especially fond of local startups like Zuga Medical, which is commercializing a way to simplify dental implants, and 7signal, which helps hospitals monitor their wireless connectivity. But other areas in the state are producing great companies too. Cincinnati’s Aerpio Therapeutics raised a $27 million series A last year for its diabetic macular edema drug, and Columbus’ HealthSpot launched its telehealth kiosk at CES this year.

Salt Lake City

Here’s one we don’t hear about too often. That’s probably because the Salt Lake City area receives a relatively low amount of venture capital and National Institutes of Health funding. It’s home to only 500 life sciences-related companies, but that accounts for a pretty sizable percentage of the total workforce, and public and private groups are trying to build it up as a research hub.

Startups on our radar include Catheter Connections, a startup that’s created an infection-control cap for IV luers, and Juneau Biosciences, which is developing a DNA-based test for identifying women at risk for endometriosis.

[Chicago photo from Wikimedia Commons]

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Deanna Pogorelc

By Deanna Pogorelc MedCity News

Deanna Pogorelc is a Cleveland-based reporter who writes obsessively about life science startups across the country, looking to technology transfer offices, startup incubators and investment funds to see what’s next in healthcare. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Ball State University and previously covered business and education for a northeast Indiana newspaper.
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