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Updated: March 20, 2023 Editorial

Editorial: Creating a well-rounded life sciences ecosystem

Central Mass. has a real opportunity to leverage its successes and make a significant mark upon the global life sciences industry. It’s great to brand the region as more affordable than Cambridge/Greater Boston and to emphasize the appeal of manufacturing products in nearby facilities where real estate is cheaper. However, we’re better off positioning Greater Worcester as a separate and distinct market. The distance between Worcester and Boston is greater than the distance between San Francisco and San Jose, the territory covering Silicon Valley. Much like those two California hubs are each bookends for the tech industry, Worcester can become its own biomanufacturing, research, and biotech hub.

During WBJ’s Life Sciences Forum at the DCU Center on March 14, the keynote and panelists spoke of the many advantages Central Mass. has to offer life sciences: an educated and trained workforce; business-friendly communities helping cut red tape; established players like Boston Scientific in Marlborough, Bristol Myers Squibb in Devens, and AbbVie in Worcester; hundreds of millions in research dollars at places like UMass Chan Medical School, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine; real estate wide open enough for developers like King Street Properties to build a ground-up $500-million life sciences campus in Devens, and real estate versatile enough for portions of the Natick Mall to be converted into lab space. In August, the international real estate firm CBRE ranked Greater Worcester as the 15th best U.S. metro area for life sciences research talent pools, scoring higher than other major regions like Dallas/Fort Worth.

Clearly, Central Massachusetts has an opportunity.

Beyond attracting big names and constructing big developments is making sure companies of all sizes have a chance to flourish, especially the younger companies still researching whether their ideas can make for viable and profitable products. With incubators like Massachusetts Biomedical Initiatives in Worcester and ABI-LAB in Natick, the region has places for startups to find their footing. The next step, though, is where early stage companies must navigate the so-called Valley of Death, where funding research – meaning negative cash flow – needs to continue before their products make it to the market.

As WBJ Staff Writer Kevin Koczwara writes in his “Making life sciences affordable” story, this stage just got some much-needed support. Worcester Polytechnic Institute, in a nearly $1-million partnership with MBI, has developed a new lab space full of the kind of lab equipment few early stage companies can afford, but they’ve got access at WPI’s Cell Engineering Research Equipment Suite to help prove the viability of their products. This marks an important step in reaching the goal of a well-rounded life sciences ecosystem.

The future of Central Mass. life sciences is exciting as the region has a number of competitive advantages. With continued smart investments both publicly and privately, the opportunity for growth is immense.

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