Laying the Groundwork for the Future of Biotech in Massachusetts: Policy, Workforce, and Science Pave Our Way

May 29, 2024

By Tamar Thompson, MassBio Chair and Vice President, Head of Corporate Affairs, Alexion, AstraZeneca Rare Disease

MassBio Board Chair Tamar Thompson speaking at a transparent podium wearing a white blazer during the State of Possible Conference.
Tamar Thompson (Photo by John Wilcox)

Imagine a Massachusetts where people living in all corners of the Commonwealth – not only Boston and Cambridge – are benefiting from a vibrant biotech sector, with opportunities for employment and access to health care. As I step into my new role as chair of MassBio, that’s the future I can envision, and we’re setting the groundwork for it today through our ongoing efforts in support of continuing to push the boundaries of science, creating a prepared workforce, and public policies that drive continued innovation.

Massachusetts has long been at the forefront of innovation in biotech, with our drug development pipeline accounting for 14.9% of the US pipeline, and 6.5% of the global pipeline. Our workforce includes nearly 114,000 dedicated individuals and our significant contribution to the Commonwealth’s economy is undeniable.

That pioneering legacy continues today as evidenced by the number of cranes and construction trucks still present in Kendall Square and Boston and the high demand for talent that is outpacing our supply. Yet we must be mindful that the world is changing, and the geopolitical climate and landscape are very different than they were in the early days of the biotech boom in greater Boston. That makes it even more important to anticipate change and maintain our focus on global leadership in innovation.

To sustain our leadership position, we must be bold and creative in developing solutions that ensure we have a strong and vibrant life sciences industry well into the future. 

Being bold means advocating for policies that ensure access and equity for patients from supporting incentives that drive scientific innovation to fighting for policies that enable access to a health care system that is equitable. Making a meaningful impact on the lives of patients is why I’m passionate about the work we do, and I know that same passion is what drives MassBio’s members as well.   

Being bold also means doubling down on investments in our workforce across the Commonwealth. We’re fortunate to have many of our nation’s leading academic and research powerhouses, along with some of the best medical facilities, right here in our backyard. They play a key role in fueling biotech innovation, and we need to do more to keep up with the demand for great employees and enable job opportunities for people from all backgrounds. That’s why MassBio is already stepping up with Bioversity, a state-of-the-art learning center.   

Through Bioversity and other initiatives, MassBio is helping our sector to source talent from backgrounds and regions, beyond our anchors in Boston and Cambridge, to support our industry’s evolving needs. The goal is to develop a skilled workforce that reflects the patient populations it serves. Bioversity moved a step closer toward that goal this spring, when its first cohort of students completed a weeks-long training session, with bright futures ahead of them. 

Over the past five years, MassBio has had a solid strategic roadmap in place to guide us and we are already developing the next plan to reinforce the long-term sustainability and resilience of our ecosystem. Additionally, Governor Healey and the leaders in the state Legislature have expressed a strong commitment to the life sciences. Their dedication to strengthening the foundation for growth and continued leadership in our industry is vital to our success. Together, we can develop public policies that strengthen the biotech ecosystem and empower our innovation. 

If we work together, I see a future where the biotech industry continues to thrive across all corners of this Commonwealth, driven by action, and a shared commitment to innovation and ensuring access for all. In this future, we boldly speak up to share our industry’s invaluable contributions to economies, communities, and patients, not just locally, but on a global scale, and Massachusetts is recognized not just for the advancements we bring to healthcare, but for the opportunities we create for all.

Together, we will pave the way for a future where healthcare access and economic prosperity go hand in hand. And in doing so, we will create a stronger, resilient tomorrow for our people and our Commonwealth.

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