Life science is a life saver for Bay State, MetroWest

By Cole Chapman/Daily News Correspondent | GateHouse News Service

BOSTON – Gov. Deval Patrick’s $1 billion investment plan for life science industries has added 2,537 jobs in its first five years, offering new opportunities for job growth in MetroWest and other regions around the state, a report released Tuesday says.

“Our research suggests that the state will benefit from fully funding the remaining five years of the initiative in order to maintain the lead the life sciences established in the commonwealth,” said Barry Bluestone, director of Northeastern University’s Kitty and Michael Dukakis Center and author of the report.

Bluestone told a gathering of scientists, academics and industry officials at the Boston Foundation offices that the state is “the world leader in life sciences.”

“The life sciences are kind of like the auto industry in 1910. This is the place to invest,” he said.

Patrick, joking that this investment would be a good platform for another gubernatorial run, said Massachusetts had gained back all the jobs it lost during the Great Recession.

The Massachusetts Life Science Initiative was established in 2008 to give $1 billion in grants and tax incentives to the commonwealth’s universities and life science industries, such as biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, diagnostics and bioinformatics. In five years, the Life Sciences Center has invested $301 million. The report indicates the state will generate $1.66 in added tax revenue for every dollar spent so far.

“It’s one thing for government to make tools available, the question is whether you’re going to make the most of them, and you have,” said Patrick. “We are leading the nation out of recession faster than most other states because we made decisions, because we made choices, and because we decided not to leave our future to chance.”

According to the report, the Massachusetts science industry has grown by 27.3 percent since 2001 versus the nation’s average growth rate of 11.9 percent. Massachusetts now ranks higher than every other state in the nation with 14,300 jobs per million residents.

Companies such as Genzyme, a subsidiary of the Sanofi biotechnology company with several manufacturing and research centers in Framingham, are feeling the effects of the investment and its impact on production. Sanofi even exceeded by one the 100-employee target set in 2010 by the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center.

Stephen Meunier, associate director of public affairs at Genzyme, said after the meeting that investment brings a number of exciting opportunities for the “cluster” of biotech companies to expand outward from Boston and Cambridge.

“(The Life Science investments) help us build a more collaborative environment with all the things we do, so it’s not just the investment they make in Framingham, but it’s also the climate that they create in Massachusetts,” said Meunier.”It’s a good place to locate, expand and do business.”

“Hopefully we’ll see new innovations coming out of R&D, and new innovations means more manufacturing and more jobs and more growth,” Meunier added.

Areas such as Worcester are also benefitting from the Life Sciences investments. In January, the Massachusetts Life Science Center provided a $90 million grant for the Albert Sherman Center at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, the biggest grant yet.

Susan Windham-Bannister, president and CEO of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center said the investment would draw more companies towards the central and western regions, noting that two thirds of the investments so far have been in areas outside of Boston and Cambridge.

“We are investing in the central part of the state with Worcester being the focal point,” said Bannister. “If you look at where a lot of the companies are located or looking now, they’re locating in the Metrowest, they’re locating along the 495 corridor, and they’re all pushing west because the talent is there, the infrastructure is there, and the cost of being there is less.”

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