Last month, a Chicago-based biotech company called CellTrans was on the receiving end of a remarkable regulatory milestone: The company received FDA approval for the first cellular therapy for Type-1 diabetes

I’m thrilled by this news and for all the people this advance will help. I’m also amped that this breakthrough came out of Chicago. Historically, Bay Area and Boston companies have been the ones to make these sorts of leaps forward in the life sciences arena. But, the rise of Chicago as a biotech center is real — and it’s no accident. 

There’s ample evidence of Chicago’s burgeoning importance in the biotech sector. recently cataloged 10 reasons why the life sciences industry should keep an eye on Chicago in 2023 (and beyond). Chicago possesses the universities, investment funds, government support, infrastructure (including immense new wet lab space at Fulton Labs), and the science and entrepreneurial talent to undoubtedly qualify as a biotech hub. 

Here are some of the numbers that underscore the growing power of Chicago’s life sciences bonafides: 

  • 9 billion. That’s the amount, in dollars, that venture capital firms invested in medtech in the Chicago area in 2021 — an increase of 60 percent over the previous year, according to
  • 700+. That’s the number of pharmaceutical, device, and diagnostic companies in the Chicago area, which include recognizable names such as Abbott Laboratories and Baxter. 
  • 11. That’s the number of leading bioscience universities in or near the city. The names you’ll recognize immediately include Northwestern University, the University of Chicago, and the University of Illinois. 

The surge in biotech activity around Chicago looking to leverage this infrastructure is staggering. Organizations are flocking to Chicago to find solutions to big, persistent medical problems. 

For instance, earlier this year, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) announced the launch of a biomedical research hub in Chicago, which will take advantage of talent at universities in or near Chicago. This will be the first CZI research hub outside San Francisco, and will focus on building sensors to study inflammation, a major driver of disease. 

“This institute will embark on science to embed miniaturized sensors into tissues that will allow us to understand how healthy and diseased tissues function in unprecedented detail,” said CZI co-founder and co-CEO Priscilla Chan. “This might feel like science fiction today, but we think it’s realistic to achieve huge progress in the next 10 years.”

Amazing, ambitious stuff — and it’s all happening in Chicago! 

Another example of biotech’s expansion in Chicago is Portal Innovations, a venture capital firm that launched in 2020 and invests in, and provides space for, early stage start-ups in life science, medtech and bioinformatics. Portal recently opened its 50,000 square foot flagship location in Chicago’s Fulton Market neighborhood, which offers fully equipped wet/dry lab space, $6 million in state-of-the-art lab equipment (including Evos microscopes and a Himac ultracentrifuge), and 3-D printing. 

One more example of Chicago’s burgeoning strength in biotech is the established companies that have picked up stakes and moved their headquarters to Chicago. points out that Xeris Biopharma moved from Texas to Chicago three years ago, and Talis Biomedical followed a year later from California. Both were attracted by the Fulton Labs development. 

And, of course, HDMZ is here in Chicago, too — we’ve been here since 1978 — and we know this city is the perfect spot for our agency to achieve our goal of being the most admired biotech and life sciences marketing communications agency in the world.