MassBio testifies in support of H.B. 4459’s Life Sciences Initiative reauthorization

May 07, 2024

On May 7, 2024, MassBio CEO & President Kendalle Burlin O’Connell and Head of Government Affairs Ed Coppinger testified before the Joint Committee on Economic Development & Emerging Technologies. The following is the testimony as prepared for delivery:

On behalf of MassBio, our Board of Directors and our 1600+ members, thank you for the opportunity to offer testimony in support of the third authorization of the Life Sciences Initiative, as included in House Bill 4459, An Act relative to strengthening Massachusetts’ economic leadership.  

The success of the original life sciences initiative, signed into law in June 2008, and its reauthorization, signed into law in June 2018, are viewed as undeniably successful public-private efforts. The government’s support for and investment in the life sciences industry here in Massachusetts has profoundly impacted the statewide economy and patients around the world! We strongly support the proposal currently before you to reauthorize the life sciences initiative and encourage the Committee to act quickly and favorably on the bill. 

Prior to 2008, Massachusetts – with our world-class academic institutions and research hospitals – was seen as one of many biotech-leading regions. Now, we are viewed as the undisputed best place in the world for the biopharma industry.  This would not have happened without government investment in the Life Sciences Initiative, strong leadership from this legislative body, and the launch of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center.  

In 2008, 7 of the top 20 global pharma companies had a presence in Massachusetts.  Today, 18 of the top 20 have a physical presence in The Commonwealth.   

When the Life Sciences Initiative was originally passed, the biopharma industry employed fewer than 55,000 people in Massachusetts.  Today, there are nearly 117,000 biopharma employees – a 114% increase! Over 16,000 of these jobs are directly connected to MLSC investments. 

These jobs have been created across Massachusetts, with 55% of biomanufacturing jobs located outside of Middlesex County and well over 30% of R&D jobs located outside Cambridge.  And there is more opportunity for regional growth.  Since 2008, Massachusetts has added over 44.5 M SF of lab and manufacturing space with significant growth beyond the urban core.  Last year, we saw 58% of VC money go to companies outside of Cambridge, and 9 municipalities received at least 1% of the more than $7B dollars invested in Massachusetts companies.  That investment is going to places like Waltham, Watertown, Andover, Natick, Beverly, Woburn and the list goes on.  This money means that companies across Massachusetts can grow and scale here in MA and hire people directly from the cities and towns that they live in. 

You may ask yourself, “If the Massachusetts life sciences ecosystem is so strong, why are we putting another $1B into it?”   

As great as the Massachusetts life sciences ecosystem is, now is not the time to rest on our laurels. Other states and countries are trying to replicate what we have here and are making intentional investments in the creation of life sciences ecosystems and offering rich incentives to companies.  We must find ways to remain competitive—to compete at the level we’ve been competing for the last 15 years.  

We know that companies are interested in manufacturing here in Massachusetts and we must find ways to support those expansions.  Becoming a leader in biomanufacturing will allow Massachusetts companies to create new and different jobs and have major economic impacts. A focus on manufacturing expansion will bring this industry and the economic benefits to places like the Merrimack Valley, Worcester, Western Ma and countless other cities and towns. 

Despite a recent investment reset, companies continue to hire here.  In the first three quarters of 2023 we added over 3000 jobs! We must support hiring with increased workforce development and job training – especially for residents who have long thought that this industry is not for them – to ensure that there is always enough talent – diverse talent – for companies to expand here. 

There is also a strong health equity element in this reauthorization. Massachusetts can once again be a leader in closing health care gaps with the Life Sciences Initiative as a vehicle for bringing about the change that can be accomplished through multi-institution, cross-sector collaboration. For example, our companies are adjusting clinical trials to account for diversity and focusing on diseases that impact women and people of color disproportionally. The Commonwealth should continue to build on the efforts of the MLSC to date to support and incentivize these partnerships. 

And we MUST support early-stage companies and their founders as the MLSC did in its early days, because that is where the cutting edge breakthroughs begin their journey to patients.  Massachusetts is the best place to start companies, and we need to keep them here with early-stage investments.  Doing this will allow us to watch new home-grown companies turn into the next Moderna or Alnylam which will benefit Massachusetts, its residents, and patients around the world.  

As you can see, the industry is dramatically different here than it was in 2008. A large reason for that success is due to the Life Science Initiative and an unwavering commitment to collaboration between industry, academia, and government.   

In order to remain the best place in the world for the life sciences industry Massachusetts must be proactive to continue our leadership in this space. Passage of the third Life Sciences Initiative authorization for $1 billion over the next ten years, as included in HB 4459, will accomplish that goal and ensure that we not only maintain our place but extend the lead.  

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this important legislation. I am happy to answer any questions from the Committee. 

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