Susan Windham-Bannister on the State of the State’s $1B Life Sciences Initiative, Part I

8/17/10

It’s been more than two years since Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick signed the bill for the state’s plan to invest $1 billion in its life sciences sector over a 10-year period. Susan Windham-Bannister, who started work as chief executive of the quasi-public Massachusetts Life Sciences Center around the time the bill was signed, has since been in charge of the massive initiative.

To get a read on how things are going at the Life Sciences Center, and to hear Windham-Bannister’s take on major developments at Cambridge, MA-based Genzyme (NASDAQ:GENZ) and other nooks of the state’s life sciences sector, I wandered around the Waltham, MA office park where she and center are based until two maintenance guys pointed me in the right direction. (It was a good thing, as I almost dropped in on my friends at the venture firm Advanced Technology Ventures in the same building to ask for directions. If you wonder why “Dr. Sue” set up shop here, read this piece from our Xconomy archives.)

So far, the $1 billion plan appears to be moving along nicely despite some cuts to its annual budget for its investment fund on Beacon Hill. In the program’s first two years, a total of $191 million dollars has been awarded through several programs to support the life sciences sector in the state. Those dollars have been invested alongside $710 million from companies, the National Institutes of Health, private investors, and other sources of external funding. Noting the impact of those dollars and her center’s, Windham-Bannister likes to say that her organization has already come close to reaching its magic number of $1 billion in investments in life sciences.

In pure state funding, the center has distributed the majority of its dollars to capital projects in the life sciences sector. For example, the town of Framingham got a $12.9 million grant from the center to for work on a wastewater facility, which is needed to support Genzyme’s $300 million project to build a new biotech drug plant there. The company also got $6 million in tax incentives last year to create 200 jobs in Framingham during 2010.

The center is also courting global life sciences companies to match its investments in startups. To date, the French drug giant Sanofi-Aventis (NYSE:SNY) and New Jersey-based health products powerhouse Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) have each agreed to contribute at least … Next Page »

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