From her position atop the Washington life sciences scene, Leslie Alexandre has seen a lot. She is expected to leave the industry association Life Science Washington after five years as president and CEO at the end of this year. This period coincided with robust expansion in the state’s emerging biotech sector. Biotech startups in the region had a lengthy history of being acquired by giant corporations, which either shut down or relocated their operations. For example, Amgen, based in Thousand Oaks, California, had recently closed its waterfront operations in Seattle’s downtown when Alexandre arrived.
Some of the more than 600 people who worked there had stayed when Amgen bought Seattle biotech Immunex. Many of them eventually dispersed among the numerous biotech companies sprung up in the region since then. Since 2016, a lot has changed. According to a recent analysis from Ernst & Young, the state is riding a national biotech IPO wave, with five biotech companies set to go public in 2021, topping tech IPOs in deal volumes and total proceeds.
Not only is the startup ecosystem thriving, but existing businesses are also staying and expanding in the region, according to Alexandre. Seagen, formed in 1997 as Seattle Genetics, today has a global presence with over 1,700 people. The corporation has kept its headquarters in Bothell, Washington, and is expanding in the state.