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    Mass. edges past N.J. in ranking of life sciences jobs

    Life Sciences Center CEO Travis McCready said the state continues to field calls from New Jersey life sciences companies looking to relocate or expand in Massachusetts.
    Globe Staff/File 2015
    Life Sciences Center CEO Travis McCready said the state continues to field calls from New Jersey life sciences companies looking to relocate or expand in Massachusetts.

    Move over, New Jersey. Massachusetts has taken your spot as the East Coast’s drug industry powerhouse.

    We now rank second behind California for life sciences jobs and ahead of the Garden State, according to a new Massachusetts Life Sciences Center report. Timed to coincide with the giant BIO conference in Boston this week, the report was commissioned as part of a campaign for a new life sciences bill — one that would authorize nearly $500 million in state spending over five years to help the industry.

    About 99,000 people worked in the sector in Massachusetts in 2016, a 14 percent increase from 2009, compared with 94,000 in New Jersey, a longtime home for many large drug makers.

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    Life Sciences Center CEO Travis McCready said the employment trend continues, as he regularly fields calls from New Jersey companies considering a relocation or expansion in Massachusetts. He said he hopes to announce another one this week.

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    Biological drugs, the kind that many Massachusetts and California companies specialize in, represent a growing portion of the industry’s pipeline. Meanwhile, dense urban locations — like, say, Cambridge’s Kendall Square — are increasingly in vogue, as opposed to gated suburban campuses. Massachusetts does have one big shortcoming: the relatively high cost of doing business in the state. That’s probably why one section of the industry here — mass manufacturing of drugs — lags the national average.

    McCready is counting on the life sciences bill to fund his agency’s $3.6 million annual operating budget, as well as its various tax incentives and grants. He said his team has already shared the report’s findings with Beacon Hill leaders, and the House and the Senate have both passed versions of the bill.

    Proponents had hoped for a bill-signing at BIO with Governor Charlie Baker. Time is running out for that. The conference ends on Thursday. As of Monday afternoon, legislative leaders hadn’t yet ironed out the bills’ differences or scheduled the necessary final votes. It would be a nice photo op, but McCready’s latest research shows Massachusetts still has plenty of reasons to brag at the big show.

    Jon Chesto can be reached at jon.chesto@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.