The Midwest: Land of Cows, Corn and… Life Sciences?

August 15, 2019

The Midwest is not typically an area one thinks of when it comes to a top Life Sciences hub. You might think of the region as all farmland, college football (Buckeyes anyone?) endless fields of corn, and a haven for hunting. Science and Technology are not usually associated with this part of the country. Believe it or not, 3 out of the 10 global leading medical device companies are headquartered in the Midwest and over 630 Medical Device companies are located in the area.

Baxter International (#5) is based in IL with over 47,000 employees and revenue of $10.56B. They spend over $617M in R&D a year. Cardinal Health (#8) is located in Ohio with over 50,000 employees and revenue of close to $130B, and Stryker Corp (#10) is headquartered in MI with 33,000 employees and over $12B in revenue.

A closer look at these states exemplify how they contribute to the Life Sciences Industry.


Warsaw, IN is the Orthopedic Capital of the World housing 3 major global organizations – Zimmer Biomet, Depuy Synthes, and Medtronic. Pharmaceutical giant, Eli Lilly is headquartered in Indianapolis with Cook Medical based in Bloomington.


Charles River Labs and Battelle offer top R&D facilities along with institutions like the Cleveland Clinic and The Ohio State University. Multiple incubators and start up hubs can be found within each major city – Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati.


The second largest medical device region in the nation is based in Minnesota, housing companies like 3M, St Jude Medical and Smiths Medical.


Chicagoland is considered the fifth-largest life sciences hub in the country, housing numerous life science organizations including Astellas, Abbott, Baxter and Siemens Clinical Diagnostics.

You have research and medical institutions like Northwestern University, the University of Chicago, Rosalind Franklin University, and the University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC). Along with two federal research labs – Argonne National Laboratory science and research center and the US Dept of Energy’s Fermilab.

World-renowned engineering departments in the fields of informatics, biomedical engineering, and nanotechnology can be found at Northwestern, the University of Illinois and the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT).

The region features a number of accelerator programs to turn research into start-ups. The Chicago Biomedical Consortium, for example, aims to stimulate collaboration among biomedical researchers at Northwestern, University of Chicago, the UIC and others. In addition, the Chicago Innovation Mentors (CIM) program is focused on early-stage, science-based ventures between universities and their technology transfer groups. CIM was recently acquired by and integrated into MATTER, a larger effort to foster development of health care technologies among 50 new companies.

Chicago’s medical schools have added new research space in the past five years and continue to expand. Northwestern is currently building a 1.2-million-square-foot Simpson Querrey Biomedical Research Center next to its medical school in downtown Chicago, which will be the largest university medical research building in the country. Some of this space will be utilized for industry collaboration.

Several of Chicago’s biotech/specialty pharmaceutical companies have been targets of successful M&A activity in recent years. Mergers such as Allergan’s $560 million acquisition of Evanston-based Naurex and Lundbeck’s $900 million acquisition of Deerfield-based Ovation Pharma demonstrate that Chicago has developed high-value companies.

Investment in the Midwest Life Science’s Companies was $2.5 Billion in 2018, raised by 438 companies. This is a record increase of 43% from 2017 with 20% more companies receiving funding. Over the past 5 years investment in companies based in the Midwest has increased by 40% with the number of companies receiving that funding increasing by 80%.

Minnesota brought in the most money with $690M, followed by Ohio at $561M and Illinois at $560M. Ohio was in the top spot when it came to the number of companies receiving funding (121) followed by Minnesota (89) and Illinois (56).

Minneapolis, Chicago, Cleveland, and Columbus were the top cities attracting the most investment dollars. Later-stage investments made up the majority of the capital, but over half of the companies invested in were in the seed stage.

With GForce Life Sciences being based in Chicago and having grown up in the Midwest, I am proud to say that this region has so much to offer the Life Sciences Industry. Our company’s mission is to make an impact one person at a time. I truly enjoy providing assistance to my clients all over the country on their project needs and excited as to what the industry is developing to help advance patient care.