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March 3, 2022

MBI, UMass Chan granted $5M for life sciences infrastructure

Photo | Sloane M. Perron Kenneth Turner, president and CEO of Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, gives the keynote address at Worcester Chamber of Commerce's Breakfast Club event

Two Worcester institutions received more than $5 million in grants from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, an economic development investment agency dedicated to life sciences, which on Thursday announced $28.3 million in capital funding to institutions across the state.

The Massachusetts Biomedical Initiatives incubator received $3 million for an expansion, and UMass Chan Medical School received $2 million for virus research.

Kenneth Turner, president and CEO of Massachusetts Life Sciences broke the news during a Thursday morning Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce Breakfast Club event, where he said Central Massachusetts’ life sciences sector was growing rapidly and making Worcester just as competitive as Boston and Cambridge.

“We have a historical opportunity to spread the access and opportunity in the life sciences sector across the entire commonwealth,” Turner said during his keynote speech at chamber event.

MBI, a biotech incubator provider in Worcester, received $3 million in funding to go toward an expansion of MBI’s ScaleUp Center. The center offers private laboratory suites up to 3,000 square feet with built-in offices to be used as incubator space for life science companies.

UMass Chan received a grant of $2,017,168. The award will fund a project enabling nanoscale imaging of viruses of pandemic potential at the medical school, according to MLSC’s press release.

UMass Chan has conducted a range of research on the COVID-19 pandemic, including studies of at-home rapid tests’ effectiveness.

MLSC’s Research Infrastructure program invests in high-demand infrastructure across the state to support academic and industry life science. Applicants to the program must demonstrate the potential of their project to fill a gap or accelerate growth in the state’s life sciences ecosystem.

Some of the awardees provided matching funds, making the combined total more than $50 million. Other awardees announced Thursday were in the Greater Boston region: Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Lahey Hospital and Medical Center, Mass General Cancer Center, and UMass Boston. North Shore InnoVentures in Beverly also received an award.

“For every taxpayer dollar that we invest in this state in the life sciences, the leverage outcome is somewhere around four-fold. I don’t know about you, but I think that is some pretty goddamn good investment,” Turner said.

In addition to announcing the 2022 MLSC’s Awardees, Turner also revealed that Massachusetts Biotechnology Institute predicts over the next three years, 21- to 24-million square feet of lab and office space is coming online, which will equate to an approximate 40,000 new jobs coming into Central Massachusetts, Turner said in his keynote address.

While the upcoming jobs have many positive benefits for the region, life sciences and manufacturing companies are struggling to fill the roles they currently have, nevermind having more available positions. The labor shortage and lack of skilled and readily available workers is hindering this growing industry.

“What that says to me is that we have a lot of work to do, and what it says to me is that my No. 1 job, my No. 1 focus is going to be three things: jobs, jobs, and jobs. More importantly, I want to make sure that those jobs are not completely confined and localized to the Cambridge and Boston metro area,” Turner said.

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