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Updated: April 15, 2024 Editorial

Editorial: Life sciences need another $1 billion

The Central Mass. life sciences industry had a solid run over the last 16 years. With the groundwork laid by the likes of UMass Chan Medical School in Worcester and the pharmaceutical company AbbVie’s operations in the city, the industry has expanded throughout the region with the help of the Life Sciences Initiative, a 10-year, $1-billion effort launched in 2008 by then-Gov. Deval Patrick to help accelerate the sector and spread the industry’s growth out from its global hub in Boston and Cambridge.

Since 2008, Devens has become a mini biotech hub of its own with companies like pharmaceutical giant Bristol Myers Squibb, and Marlborough has attracted firms like Boston Scientific and women’s health technology company Hologic. Greater Worcester has been ranked in the top 15 U.S. metros for life sciences research talent by the global real estate brokerage CBRE. The Life Sciences Initiative firmly established Mass. as the global leader in the biotechnology industry, and the proposed extension of the program will support the momentum of regions like Central Mass., as Jon Weaver, president and CEO of Worcester incubator Massachusetts Biomedical Initiatives, points out in the article “Gov. Healey's proposed $1B life sciences reauthorization has Central Mass. leaders thinking big” by Staff Writer Mica Kanner-Mascolo.

Gov. Maura Healey wants to reauthorize the Life Sciences Initiative with another $1 billion in her Mass Leads Act economic development proposal. The new money would come with some added benefits, as Mass Leads would provide $75 million to establish life sciences tech hubs in Worcester and Springfield, with the potential to use technologies like artificial intelligence to help accelerate the drug development process. Funding for new technologies like bioreactors could help entrepreneurs get their companies off the ground, as a major barrier to success in the industry is the need for big chunks of capital to sustain companies through the expensive process of bringing products to market. Lowering that barrier would have an outsized impact in Central Mass., where startups don’t have the ready access to the Greater Boston venture capital system.

As Gov. Patrick proved back in 2008, these types of government investments pay real dividends for industry in Central Massachusetts. Before the state legislative session ends this year, lawmakers need to turn Healey’s proposal into reality. That level of funding, especially targeting life sciences and with bonuses for regions like Central Massachusetts, can take the industry to new heights.

As life sciences has become all the more important in Central Massachusetts, WBJ is holding its second annual Life Sciences Forum on May 15 in Marlborough to discuss barriers and opportunities to further growth in the region. This year’s event will be highlighted by state Economic Development Secretary Yvonne Hao, who no doubt will use the opportunity to explain the key points of Healey’s plan. To be in the know about this important sector, we invite you to attend.

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