Opportunity Awaits in the “Wild West”!

Aug 11, 2020

Guest Blog by Jon Weaver, President & CEO, Massachusetts Biomedical Initiatives (MBI), and Robert J. Anderson, LLM, Esq., CPA, Chairman, MBI Board of Trustees

Massachusetts is home to the greatest regional life science cluster and most talented workforce in the world. Domestically, our state of only 10,565 square miles ranks a close second in total biopharma jobs only to California, which measures 163,696 square miles and runs almost the entire west coast. Our cluster is extremely concentrated, and this is a central part of its success. 

However, as the cluster continues to grow, expansion is inevitable to accommodate the sprawling growth of our workforce radiating out of Cambridge. Massachusetts, and the industry, should be looking for the next hubs for biopharma expansion to ensure the cluster’s continued growth. The good news is… they are. 

We’ll use Worcester as an example of opportunities that exist outside of Route 128. As the second largest city in New England, Worcester is a biotech hub in its own right. Worcester is home to 50+ biotech companies, 11 colleges & universities, including the UMass Medical School and WPI, and AbbVie’s Bioresearch Center. The City’s Economic Development Coordinating Council (EDCC) is focused on complementing, not competing with the regional life science cluster by supporting biomanufacturing, startups, CRO’s, and those drug discovery groups not tethered to Cambridge. 

WuXi Biologics @ The Reactory Rendering

Examples of this success include Worcester’s Biomanufacturing Park, now known as The Reactory. Following an industry listening session in 2015, Massachusetts Biomedical Initiatives (MBI) authored a white paper to create a biomanufacturing park in the city, adjacent to the AbbVie Bioresearch Center, UMass Medicine Science Park, and UMass Medical School. Lt. Governor Karyn Polito took up the charge and co-chaired a 25-stakeholder task force that led to the development of the Park by the Worcester Business Development Corporation. Last month, WuXi Biologics broke ground on a 110,000 SF biomanufacturing facility in the new park, and over the weekend, it was announced that Galaxy Life Sciences would develop the rest of the 46 acre park and offer full turnkey, build to suit opportunities. Welcome to Wu-ster WuXi & Galaxy!

Entrance to MBI’s New StartUp Center @ 17 Briden Street

To support early-stage and growing startups, MBI will host the grand opening of our new StartUp & ScaleUp Center’s at 17 Briden Street this month. The 30,000 square foot facility, funded by the Massachusetts Life Science Center, features 28 private lab suites between 100 – 3,000 SF for growing companies. The facility is a great opportunity for early-stage companies to grow in a supportive environment and is already home to 16 exciting life science companies and 40 employees. A video tour can be found here

MBI was recently awarded the Entrepreneur Center of the Year: Science & Technology by the International Business Innovation Association, in recognition of its new facility and its new Entrepreneur in Residence program. With MBI’s Entrepreneur in Residence program, Dr. Dana Ono, a founding member of MassBio and friend to many, has joined the MBI team to help move our companies to fundable milestones. In three short months, Dr. Ono helped one MBI company secure a partnership with an international Pharma group, and another group secured approximately $2M in seed funding. 

MBI companies gathered at our annual International New Year’s Party

Success outside of 128 is not a hypothesis, but a proven reality. Just in Worcester, AbbVie’s Bioresearch Center developed Humira and now Rinvoq. MustangBIO entered the Worcester market with their CAR-T pipeline in 2017 and is now over 80 employees and growing. Blue Sky Biotech, founded at MBI in 2006, was acquired by LakePharma in 2016 and now employs over 100 employees in Massachusetts. Worcester-based Biomere has grown to over 125 employees. Biomere was acquired by JOINN Labs in December of 2019 and continues to expand its footprint and portfolio of services.

As our industry continues to grow, regionalizing the cluster and expanding west is crucial. There are assets throughout the Commonwealth that the industry should take advantage of. This economic Westward Ho will further enhance the Massachusetts life science cluster and provide opportunities to expand the workforce. As a statewide organization, MBI looks forward to supporting this growth across the Commonwealth and helping companies identify new opportunities to reduce the burden on our transportation system, lower costs, and utilize all of the assets of the Commonwealth. 

MBI’s Ribbon Cutting for the 17 Briden Street StartUp & ScaleUp Center will be held virtually on August 25th at 2pm. To join us, please see the event details here: MBI Ribbon Cutting Event Page.

About the Authors:

Robert J. Anderson, LLM, Esq., CPA
Chairman, MBI Board of Trustees

Bob Anderson is currently the Chair of Mass Biomedical Initiatives, which provides incubator lab space and support for their clients to take research from the laboratory to becoming novel therapeutics for patients. He has more than 30 years of experience in the field of biotechnology. His efforts have been focused on acquiring or licensing strategic intellectual property rights and providing finance and legal support in researching, developing and commercializing novel therapeutics. His experience includes guiding innovative therapeutic products from concept to commercialization both in-house and as a partner in a biotech law firm.

With Abbott Bioresearch and Abbott Laboratories (now AbbVie), Bob was a key player in acquiring, protecting and enhancing AbbVie’s’ impressive pharmaceutical product pipeline. He provided key legal support to the entire field of pharmaceuticals with a primary focus on the research, development, manufacturing and commercialization of biologic therapeutics, including AbbVie’s flagship pharmaceutical – HUMIRA®. HUMIRA® is the first fully human therapeutic antibody which has received regulatory approval in an exceptional number of indications.

Bob formerly served as General Counsel for BASF Bioresearch Corporation (BBC). He was a founding member of BASF Bioresearch Corporate’s management team, which built a world-class research, development and biologics manufacturing organization from 10 employees up to a current staff of approximately 1,000 scientists, clinicians, engineers and professional staff (Currently AbbVie Bioresearch). Bob was also a key member of BASF’s legal team that negotiated and executed the $6.9 billion dollar acquisition of the BASF Pharma Group by Abbott Laboratories. He then worked for over a decade for Abbott to further develop and commercialize HUMIRA® and other novel therapeutics.

Bob Anderson holds an LLM and JD from Suffolk University Law School, a Masters in Taxation from Bentley University and a BS in Accounting and Finance from Villanova University.

Jon Weaver
President & CEO, Massachusetts Biomedical Initiatives (MBI)

Jon is the President & CEO of Massachusetts Biomedical Initiatives (MBI), a private, non-profit economic development organization that promotes the life and health sciences across Massachusetts as an economic development advocate and early-stage business incubator.  As an economic development advocate, MBI has supported the development of the Worcester Biomanufacturing Park, Gateway Park, and Redstone Center.  MBI operates three life and health science business incubators across the City of Worcester that provide cost-effective laboratory space, shared equipment, environmental health and safety support, and business assistance.  Founded in 1985, MBI has graduated over 95 life science companies that employ over 800 in the regional economy. 

Jon received his Bachelors and MBA from Assumption College.  He previously served as Vice President, Real Estate at MassDevelopment and Senior Project Manager at the Worcester Business Development Corporation.  Prior to assuming the role of President & CEO, Jon served as the Chief Operating Officer of MBI for three years.  Jon is a current Board Member of the Worcester Regional Research Bureau and Alumni Advisor to the Worcester Student Government Association.  He actively supports several other organizations and was a former member of the Planning Board and Economic Development Committee in the Town of Auburn. 

While President & CEO, Jon has overseen MBI’s expansion into the former Cogmedix facility at 17 Briden Street, Worcester, MA in Worcester’s Gateway Park development.  The 25,000 SF expansion project will double MBI’s capacity to support early stage companies.  Jon also oversaw the establishment of several business support and mentoring programs within MBI to help early stage entrepreneurs raise capital and continue their growth. 

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