Member Spotlight: Q&A with Massachusetts Biomedical Initiatives (MBI)

Sep 01, 2020

Every month, MassBio spotlights a member company and the great work they’re doing to advance the life sciences industry and support the patients we serve. In September, we spoke with Jon Weaver, President & CEO of Massachusetts Biomedical Initiatives (MBI). MBI is the longest running life science incubator in the Commonwealth and has supported over 150 early stage companies that employ over 800 in our regional life science cluster.

Tell us about your organization, its mission, and current initiatives

At Massachusetts Biomedical Initiatives (MBI), our mantra is “All About Our Companies”.  MBI is the longest running life science business incubator in the Commonwealth and as a non-profit we measure our success through the success of our companies. 

MBI has supported over 150 early stage startups with success stories like T. Breeders (acquired by Perkin Elmer), Coley Pharmaceuticals (acquired by Pfizer), Convergent Dental, and Blue Sky Bioservices (acquired by Lake Pharma).  We pride ourselves on the success of our entrepreneurs, the jobs they create, and the key role they play in growing the regional life science cluster. 

MBI is also an economic development and workforce development advocate.  MBI supported projects like the Worcester Biomanufacturing Park, Gateway Park, and supports workforce development efforts like our Increasing Diversity in STEM partnership with Worcester State University & Quinsigamond Community College. 

How does your organization’s activities help patients now and into the future?

At MBI, our role is to empower the entrepreneurs who bring new hope to patients. 

We achieve this primarily through our StartUp & ScaleUp Innovation Centers.  Our StartUp Centers provide individual, private labs ranging from 100 – 600 square feet for early stage startups.  Our ScaleUp Center provides lab & office suites up to 3,000 square feet to help companies grow to scale.  We provide access to shared equipment, CORE facilities, and environmental health & safety support.  Most importantly, we view ourselves as an extension of our companies and partner to support their success and overcome challenges. 

After maintaining 99% occupancy for over three years, MBI was proud to cut the ribbon on our new StartUp & ScaleUp Centers at 17 Briden Street on August 25, 2020.  Through the support of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center and our State & Local officials, this facility doubles MBI’s capacity to support early stage companies. 

What do you see as the biggest challenge facing the life sciences industry today?

On the innovation front, MBI is focused on closing the gap between developing great science and building a great company.  To do this, our Board of Trustees established a Business Strategy Committee and engaged Dr. Dana Ono, a Founding Member of MassBIO, as an Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR). 

The Business Strategy Committee provides a multi-disciplinary evaluation of companies, offers strategic advice, and helps makes connections wherever possible to advance companies on a path to commercialization.

Through our EIR program, Dr. Ono provides more direct tactical support to help our companies achieve fundable milestones.  Dr. Ono started several companies of his own, spent two decades in venture capital, and has a great perspective on where the gaps are and how to fill them.  We launched this effort in March and have already celebrated a seed round and a pharma collaboration through the program. 

What’s next for your organization / what are you focused on in the coming year?

At the Ribbon Cutting, 17 Briden Street was already home to 17 companies, exceeding our year 1 goal.  Over the next year, we’ll continue to onboard new companies and then dig in to support their success.  Through our Business Strategy Committee and EIR efforts, we’re focused on fundable milestones! 

With WuXi’s $60M biomanufacturing facility underway and Galaxy Life Sciences $50M biomanufacturing project shortly behind it, Worcester and Central Massachusetts are gaining momentum as a critical node in the regional life sciences cluster.  Our strategy is to identify opportunities for Greater Worcester to complement the success of the regional cluster in biomanufacturing, supporting startups, contract research, and drug discovery.  Supporting Worcester’s Biomanufacturing Park and helping promote the proposed biotech buildings around WooSox Stadium will be key priorities. 

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