April 18, 2018

Life sciences bill includes $50 million for UMass Medical, UMass Lowell

Courtesy
UMass Medical School in Worcester

A version of Gov. Charlie Baker's life sciences legislation, which will continue a decade-long initiative lauched by former Gov. Deval Patrick, is on the move on Beacon Hill.

The Joint Committee on Economic Development was voting Friday on legislation providing an additional $445 million in capital spending for the Massachusetts Life Sciences Investment Fund, which is intended to advance workforce development and early stage company growth in the life sciences and biomanufacturing sectors.

Nearly $150 million of that spending is carved out for investments in research and facilities throughout the University of Massachusetts.

"Pretty much everybody has agreed to move it forward," committe co-chairman Rep. Joseph Wagner of Chicopee told the News Service.

The legislation also extends for 10 years a life sciences tax incentive program currently scheduled to expire at the end of 2018, while also raising the cap on that program to $30 million, from $25 million, effective Jan. 1, 2019.

Within the proposed capital spending is a $47 million earmark for UMass Amherst, a $20 million earmark for UMass Boston, a $21.7 million carveout for UMass Dartmouth, and a $50 million earmark for a joint neuroscience proposal between UMass Lowell and the UMass Medical School in Worcester. Additional carveouts would drive mobile health work at UMass Medical and cell and gene therapy work at UMass Medical and a MassBiologics facility in Fall River.

"This bill will provide the state with the tools to deploy capital investments in cutting edge equipment and infrastructure, promote innovative research and development, and strengthen existing resources and regional assets through workforce development and strategic partnerships," Wagner said in a statement. "This bill will unlock federal monies and private investments as Massachusetts continues [to] maintain its economic competitiveness on the global level in the areas of life sciences, biotechnology, and advanced manufacturing."

Gov. Baker in June 2017 offered a five-year, $500 million bill to basically extend the life sciences law. House Speaker Robert DeLeo in January said he favors a "renewal of our commitment" to the industry, which he said has "shown to be a good investment in the past, good for the Massachusetts economy.

The bill that's advancing Friday will likely be vetted by the House Bonding Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee and emerge for consideration in the House sometime after the House passes its fiscal 2019 budget bill in late April.

Boston is scheduled to host the 2018 BIO International Convention from June 4 through June 7, an event that organizers say will draw 16,000 attendees from 74 countries and 1,800 exhibiting companies. The BIO International Convention, hosted by the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, was also held in Boston in 2007 when Gov. Patrick introduced a 10-year, $1 billion life sciences investment bill that became law.

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