MassBIO: focus on innovation, not manufacturing

Reality check: With today's economy and the rise of rival biotech hubs, it's time to focus on encouraging innovation among Massachusetts' biotech companies rather than luring biotech manufacturers, says Massachusetts Biotechnology Council President Robert Coughlin. "People aren't coming here to open manufacturing plants," Coughlin told the Boston Herald earlier this week. "They're coming here from around the world to meet up with thought leaders."

And that was the message Coughlin presented--along with the 2015 Strategic Plan--to attendees at the Council's annual meeting yesterday at the Seaport World Trade Center. The new plan stresses the need for capital and urges biotech companies to focus on what the Massachusetts hub is rather than what it can become. As the Herald reports, this a far cry from the message of the 2003 report, which called for more investment in industry growth, such as regulatory changes and water and sewer line improvements. But the report prepared by Deloitte lays out the different environment biotechs face today:

Roughly 40,000 people are employed at 400 biotech companies in Massachusetts. According to the MassBIO report, about half of the state's public companies have less than a year's worth of funds on hand. And of course with the credit market the way it is, private companies have really been hit hard: nearly 40 privately held biotechs haven't received any financing in over three years.

On top of all of that, although a leading world biotech hub, the state faces competition from rising competitors in the U.S.--namely North Carolina, San Diego and San Francisco--and abroad, including India, Ireland, Switzerland and the U.K.

Speakers at the MassBIO meeting also lamented that while groundbreaking research was still being widely conducted, the state's collaboration, networking and fundraising continues to be subpar, reports Mass High Tech.

"We're not saying we don't want manufacturing," Coughlin explained. But Massachusetts is a leader in innovation and the state should focus on growth in research and development and innovation. "That's what got us here." In addition to a renewed focus on R&D, Coughlin says there needs to be more effort towards retaining talent and encouraging students to explore careers in the sciences. "We are slipping, continuing to lose people," he said.

- read the Herald's interview with Coughlin
- check Mass High Tech's take on yesterday's meeting