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Dr. Sue Skates Where the Puck is Heading in Life Sciences–Waltham

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for state budget cuts: “Just a quick reminder. We have a $500 million capital fund for large-scale infrastructure and building, tied to bonding dollars. We get a share of the state capital plan. There are up to $25 million of tax incentives we can award each year. Then there’s a $25 million investment fund, appropriated from the Legislature. Back in October or November, when the state realized it had a significant shortfall, the center was asked to take a 40 percent cut.

It’s from the grant and the loan-making portion, and equity stakes could come from that as well. It’s really discretionary money used for a variety of purposes. So is it a replacement? I wouldn’t say that, I’d say it’s a leveraging. That’s always our intent. On the surface, $1 billion sounds great in life sciences, but $1 billion brings one molecule to the market, essentially. It’s always been our intent to serve as a magnet for other capital to invest. We believe that retaining at least a critical mass strengthens our ability to attract other capital. It’s not a way to replace those dollars, it’s a way to extend those dollars. We feel very good about being able to go back and say that since July, we’ve invested $42.6 million of public tax dollars, and leveraged $352 million of private investment, and created 950 jobs. We like being able to go back to the taxpayers and say, ‘We spent one of your dollars, and we invested $9. Eight of those came from other investors.'”

On how the agency arrived at that $350 million private investment figure: “We took a look at what we know. That’s a conservative number, because we knew we’d be asked that. We looked at where we know directly there were investments made. For grants, every one of our research grants has a one-to-one match. We know, for example, our $10 million investment in the Marine Biological Laboratory attracted a $15 million grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The institute told MBL that our grant was instrumental in them deciding to give the grant. We know that as a result of our investment in the town of Framingham, to enable them to build a pump station and better wastewater management, we know how much Genzyme invested in moving ahead to build a 300-person biomanufacturing facility. We’ve been tracking it. We know from the young companies that have applied to us, we know how much additional money they were able to access because they got a grant from the center.

On how deep the state budget cuts might go for her agency: It’s hard to tell, it’s early in the process. Debates going on now in the House, then will go to the Senate. What we are hoping for is to at least have level funding with fiscal 2009, which would be $15 million. We’re realistic. In this state, as in every state, the legislature is looking at cutting direct services to people and programs like ours. Fire, police protection, and programs like ours. So I think it would be unrealistic of us not to expect that we will be asked to make some concessions. But I think it’s too early to say exactly what that might look like. It’s for fiscal 2010. The governor proposed $20 million for the grant-making portion. That’s a $5 million reduction from what’s envisioned in the statute.

On resolving a dispute over who owns intellectual property generated from state grants: We’ll turn our attention to that in early 2010. We’re having conversations with individuals on differing sides of the issue. That’s a pressing and important issue for us to weigh in on.

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2 responses to “Dr. Sue Skates Where the Puck is Heading in Life Sciences–Waltham”

  1. Tim RoweTim Rowe says:

    What Susan is doing with the Mass Life Sciences Center is simply terrific. It is not only extremely helpful in that sector, but is also a model that could be extended to other sectors. Go MSLC. The MSLC team is down at Bio right now telling our region’s story, and nothing could be more helpful.

    Having said that, as a hockey dad and tireless defender of Kendall Square, I am bound to mention that I’m not sure the puck is really heading to the suburbs, as your article suggests.

    Alexandria Real Estate recently won approval to build another 1.6 million square feet of lab space right here in Kendall Square, and Novartis recently announced it will build another 300,000+ sq. ft. building near here for lab and office. True that Biogen Idec announced plans to move part of their operations to Weston, but as I understand it, that is their administrative operations, while they plan to keep their research right here. With the greatest respect to Waltham, I think for the time being the puck stops here.