Planting Seeds for Massachusetts’ Future

4/22/11

Massachusetts has a long, honorable history of proactively investing in its own long-term economic success. A great example occurred 150 years ago this month, when the Massachusetts legislature funded the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), creating one of the nation’s first land grant colleges.

In 1861, Governor John Andrews and the legislature likely did not think of their actions in modern terms like public-private partnerships, technology clusters, or enhanced infrastructure, but that is essentially what it was. They understood that through state support of education, science, and technology the state and its citizens could prosper in the long run.

As a world-leading research university and the incubator of numerous high-tech industries in the state, across America and around the globe, MIT has proved its worth and the foresight of the state’s investment. Similarly, today’s efforts to encourage and build a strong biotechnology and biopharmaceutical research sector in Massachusetts are as ambitious and visionary.

John Castellani

Governors and legislators of both political parties have, for years, demonstrated both pragmatic consensus and real vision by supporting public and private efforts to create in the state one of the leading biotechnology research and manufacturing infrastructures found anywhere in the world.

The present day benefits of these efforts are enormous.

First and foremost, of course, there are patients everywhere who directly benefit from the research initiated and conducted in the state. From cancer to diabetes to HIV/AIDS and a host of rare diseases, Massachusetts-based researchers are working on solving some of the most difficult healthcare challenges we face. The answers they seek—whether resulting in small, steady incremental improvement of treatments or in some major therapeutic breakthrough—are giving patients new hope for better health and a longer life. These researchers and laboratories are also laying the scientific and technical foundation for the next great era of medicine: genetic and an even more targeted and personalized healthcare.

However, policy makers can also take pride in the simple pragmatism of their efforts. By investing in a strong, innovative Massachusetts-based biopharmaceutical research sector, their efforts are verifiably contributing to the creation of great jobs and a stronger state economy.

Recently released research commissioned by the Pharmaceutical Research Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) finds that the state’s biopharmaceutical research sector was directly responsible for nearly 40,000 Massachusetts jobs. Each direct sector job helped to create and support an additional 87,000 indirect and induced jobs for a total of nearly 127,000 jobs state-wide. Better still, the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council reports that the direct jobs created in the biopharmaceutical research sector earn some of the highest wages anywhere—as much as 64 percent more than the average Massachusetts salary.

But what is critically important to remember is that this is a relatively young industry. The biopharmaceutical medical revolution is only in its early stages. Twenty five years ago the kinds of infrastructure and policy support now fueling Massachusetts’s growth as global biopharmaceutical research center barely existed. What’s more, the hoped-for medical and economic benefits were mere speculation rather than today’s impressive facts on the ground.

Investment in the sector is already paying off. The challenge confronting policy makers and legislators at the State House is whether they have the vision to continue investing in the state’s future or instead succumb to real but more transitory economic and political pressures and pare back on the state’s historic support of the biopharmaceutical research sector.

If you look back with pride and even awe at the foresight that lead to creating MIT 150 years ago, the answer, we think, is obvious.

Christopher Viehbacher is the CEO of Sanofi-Aventis and Chairman of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) Board of Directors. John J. Castellani is President and CEO of PhRMA. Follow @

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