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

8/18/10

Politics play a significant role in Massachusetts’s 10-year plan to invest $1 billion into its life sciences sector. Gov. Deval Patrick championed the effort, which aims to grow the life sciences sector in the state and create new jobs. And every year the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, the quasi-public agency in charge of the initiative, seeks support from politicians on Beacon Hill to approve part of its annual budget.

In the second part of my interview with Susan Windham-Bannister, the chief executive of the Life Sciences Center, we focused on the role of politics in the state’s $1 billion plan. (Here’s the first part of the interview that focused on topics related to Genzyme, Biogen Idec, Carl Icahn, and a two-year status update on the initiative itself). There have been major political changes in the Bay State since the $1 billion plan was signed into law in June 2008.

To name a couple of those changes, Gov. Patrick is now in a close race in his bid for reelection with Republican candidate Charlie Baker, the former chief of the Boston-based health insurer Harvard Pilgrim Health Care (read on in the Q&A below for Windham-Bannister’s comments on Baker’s healthcare background). Also, Scott Brown, who won the late Ted Kennedy’s former seat in the U.S. Senate in January, voted against the bill that created the $1 billion initiative back in June 2008 when he was still a state senator.

What do these political changes mean for the state’s $1 billion life sciences plan? Windham-Bannister recently tackled my questions on this topic in addition to others related to politics. For example, I’ve been wondering how, with the majority of industry and academic activity clustered within and east of the Route 128 corridor, the Life Sciences Center has managed to distribute its funding elsewhere in the state. Also, I got her take on what the life sciences community lost with the death of Sen. Kennedy, who was the industry’s go-to man on Capitol Hill to help bring federal research funding to the state.

It’s also worth mentioning that Windham-Bannister herself has close ties to the Patrick administration. While she says she won’t endorse any of the gubernatorial candidates in her official role as head of the Life Sciences Center, she acknowledges that as a private citizen she’s giving her time and financial support to … Next Page »

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