Massachusetts’ biopharma cluster is among the world’s biggest and best with more than 56,000 jobs, universities like Harvard and MIT, and a rich heritage stretching from Genzyme’s founding in 1981.
But with growing competition for jobs, especially from Asia, Bay State industry advocates unveiled a strategy for keeping their region top-tier into 2020 and beyond, in a report released April 3 by the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council (MassBio). Impact 2020 recommends Massachusetts step up economic incentives—particularly to businesses that can mature into large “anchor” companies—and build industry segments beyond R&D, such as biomanufacturing and life sciences IT.
Peter Abair, MassBio’s director of economic development and global affairs, told GEN the state already has strong incentives—for example, up to $25,000 per job for mature companies creating 10 or more jobs in a year. Companies must achieve at least 70% of their job target in 12 months and retain the jobs for five years.
“There are some places in the world where you can have a factory built for you. That’s not going to happen here, and it’s not going to happen in the United States. Having something on the table for these companies to take advantage of is important in the decision making,” Abair said.
Many of Massachusetts’ incentives come from the $1 billion, 10-year Life Sciences Initiative, shepherded by Gov. Deval Patrick and set to expire in 2018. While critics deride the initiative as wasteful (“The billion dollars in private investment is likely to have come through anyway,” the Pioneer Institute’s Jim Stergios wrote last year), Impact 2020 disagrees. The report urges officials to reauthorize the agency that oversees the initiative, the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, and expand its offerings for startups to include accelerator programs modeled after the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences (QB3) or Connecticut Innovations.
With 600,000 liters of mammalian cell culture manufacturing capacity—biggest in the world, the report says—Impact 2020 envisions Massachusetts building on biomanufacturing strengths ranging from training programs at Worcester Polytechnic Institute and University of Massachusetts (UMass) to plants run by corporate giants.
Such companies include Shire, Pfizer, Genzyme, AbbVie, and Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS), which built a Devens, MA, biologics manufacturing plant that employs 400, after winning $60 million in state and local incentives in 2006 under Patrick’s predecessor, Mitt Romney. In February, construction began on a $280 million expansion that will add 350 jobs and introduce biologics development and clinical trial manufacturing capabilities to the plant. That cost has risen since the project was announced last year.
“For the immediate future, we’re in a very strong position in terms of biologic manufacturing. When you look decades down the road, which might not be the case. That’s the key around any kind of manufacturing: It’s to stay at the cutting edge,” Abair said.
The report also urges the state to capitalize on big data’s expansion into healthcare by helping tech companies, incubators, and universities coalesce into a cluster that connects with the state’s biopharma industry to reshape drug development and patient care: “With its breadth of research activities and deep content knowledge, Massachusetts has the opportunity to be the leader in life sciences-related IT.”