For a state that had everything going for it on the biotech front, Massachusetts had earned a reputation for being a hard place to do business. Its world-class cluster grew up around some of the world's top academic research centers. And despite the high cost of doing business there, developers could easily find the talent needed to run new crops of start-ups.
This year the state got serious about lending a hand--and a billion dollars in assistance--to help the industry grow.
At the end of April, the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center doled out $3.4 million to seven life sciences companies out of a $15 million fund aimed at supporting start-ups through the R&D phase. And under last year's life sciences law, the center has $25 million for tax incentives and $500 million in capital funds.
State funds are available to support research work, recruit new scientists, and fund start-ups with early-stage programs. Tax laws have been revised to offer credit and exemptions. And payroll tax rebates help companies add workers.
The federal stimulus bill will help. New R&D funds are likely to play a big role in boosting the kind of projects that will form the scientific foundation of new companies. With some of the country's top researchers working at Harvard, MIT and a host of other institutions in the state, Massachusetts is perfectly positioned to reap a windfall from the new support being provided by the NIH.
Governor Deval Patrick gets much of the credit for getting the ball rolling on the economic development program and helping to protect it from being throttled by a severe recession. The state's life sciences cluster has reportedly grown to 400 companies that employ some 40,000 workers, and with private funds drying up rapidly, the state's help couldn't have arrived at a more critical juncture.