Massachusetts’ Life Sciences Czar Talks Strategy Amid Squeeze on State Spending and Stingy Financial Market

1/13/09

A lot has happened since Xconomy’s last in-depth interview last summer with Susan Windham-Bannister, president and CEO of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, the agency in charge of the state’s 10-year, $1 billion stimulus plan for its life sciences industry. For one, the state Legislature cut the agency’s annual budget for operations and research grants by 40 percent, or $10 million, late last year, causing Windham-Bannister and her group to adjust the state’s strategy.

At the start of 2009, the Life Sciences Center formally launched its program to award $250 million in tax incentives to life sciences companies operating in the commonwealth. The tax incentives are part of the state’s strategy to keep its life sciences sector thriving amid global competition for enticing companies to create jobs in science-based fields like biotech and medical devices. The stimulus plan also features $500 million for the state’s life sciences infrastructure such as academic labs. (Like the tax incentives and grant/loan program, the infrastructure money will be awarded over the next 10 years.)

With all this action, I decided to get an update from Windham-Bannister on how the Life Sciences Center plans to help life sciences researchers and companies navigate the harsh market for startups to raise funds. Because of the cut in her agency’s budget, she says, the Life Sciences Center plans to make only convertible loans and no direct grants to life sciences startups this year. What follows are excerpts from the rest of our discussion.

Xconomy: What’s your agency doing to address the widening funding gap for life sciences startups? … Next Page »

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