3 ways San Diego’s RNA cluster is poised for major growth

Nov 07, 2023 - Spencer Thoene

Small molecule, big possibilities. Just a single strand of sugars and phosphates, ribonucleic acid (RNA) has unlocked life-changing possibilities once unthought of—including advanced treatments for cancer, HIV vaccines, and personalized medicine. And San Diego’s RNA cluster is poised for big impact.

A 2023 report published by 1Strand and San Diego Regional EDC revealed that San Diego consistently ranks among the top 10 U.S. metros (including Boston, San Francisco, Seattle, San Jose, and the North Carolina research triangle) when it comes to both job growth and funding. Now with dozens of RNA companies at the intersection of R&D, manufacturing, and healthcare, San Diego offers 11,000 exciting science, software, and business roles.

Here are three ways San Diego’s RNA presence is poised for growth.

1. San Diego’s RNA companies were key in the fight against COVID-19—and beyond

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, San Diego drew in $59 million from the National Institutes of Health, up 49 percent over the past five years.

As Carlsbad‘s Thermo Fisher Scientific shipped the first COVID-19 tests, San Diego companies got to work developing vaccines and therapeutics. Ultimately, Sorrento Valley-based TriLink’s CleanCap® mRNA capping technology, which helps mRNA products stabilize and provoke an immune response, helped to enable the COVID-19 vaccine. Thanks to advancements like these, San Diego employment at RNA companies grew nine percent through 2021.

And as we look beyond the pandemic, the funds keep coming to support this growth: In 2022, UC San Diego was the fifth most-funded institution in the U.S. in RNA-related projects, and the second in the state. Today, San Diego is ranked #3 in the U.S. for life sciences.

2. San Diego’s R&D and manufacturing expertise offers local commercialization potential

While many peer RNA metros specialize in either R&D or production, San Diego boasts capabilities in both: 71 percent of local companies are primarily focused on R&D, and another 21 percent focus on manufacturing.

“The pipeline of RNA-based vaccines and therapies is growing exponentially around the globe. To support these developments, San Diego’s manufacturing capabilities need to keep pace,” says Kate Broderick, Chief Innovation Officer at TriLink. “By leveraging the region’s expertise in advanced manufacturing, and by collaborating with leading-edge academic and research neighbors, our RNA ecosystem can grow to support the future of medicine.”

These leading R&D and advanced manufacturing capabilities present a unique opportunity for San Diego RNA companies to localize prototyping and even commercialization efforts.

3. San Diego’s RNA cluster offers science, software, AI job opportunities

Ready to make your impact on precision medicine and bring experience in RNA sequencing, molecular biology, or software development? Now’s your chance to catch the RNA wave. Nearly three in four San Diego companies in the space expect to hire in the next year, with 60 percent of companies aiming to hire for RNA-focused positions.

And the local RNA space isn’t just attracting scientists; it’s evolving with the integration of software and AI, marking a new era in precision medicine. The advent of RNA-focused software has significantly accelerated the processing of vast genetic and molecular information. Moreover, scientists are leveraging software, AI, and machine learning to digitally design drugs before the physical compound creation. Notably, 38 percent of RNA-related roles in San Diego are in engineering and software, and knowledge of RNA biology and scientific infrastructure is a valuable asset for software developers applying to these positions.

Explore opportunities at RNA companies like Ionis Pharmaceuticals, Biosplice Therapeutics, and Avidity Biosciences on our company map.

What’s next for the RNA cluster?

Good news: EDC’s report anticipates a 13 percent job growth in San Diego over the next five years. This is the perfect moment to seize opportunities in precision medicine amid groundbreaking advancements in RNA.

Want to learn more about RNA in San Diego? Dig into the full report!

Ready to find your next role? Sign up to receive our monthly roundup of San Diego’s coolest life sciences and tech jobs.

This study was produced by San Diego Regional EDC in partnership with 1STRAND.

Other articles you might be interested in: