SHNS: “Think Bigger” May Guide Healey On Life Sciences

Feb 02, 2024

By Alison Kuznitz, State House News Service (SHNS)

The following are excerpts from an article from State House News Service that was initially published on Wednesday, January 31, 2024.

Confronting intense competition from other states, financial challenges, and federal policies that could hinder innovation, Massachusetts-based biopharma companies are looking to the state for renewed investment and partnership to help them maintain their lead in the life sciences sector, the head of an influential trade group said Wednesday.

Kendalle Burlin O’Connell, CEO of the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, called the life sciences initiative, which began with a $1 billion investment under former Gov. Deval Patrick in 2008, a necessity. The current initiative expires on June 30, 2025, and Gov. Maura Healey in June pledged to continue the historic investment, but has not yet rolled out a legislative proposal.

“We know it has to be different than it was 15 years ago, it has to be different than it was six years ago, because our industry is different, our state is different, our needs and challenges are different,” Burlin O’Connell during a MassBio policy breakfast at the Omni Parker House.

“So now’s our time to solidify our leadership as it relates to biomanufacturing and continuing to create jobs and opportunities for the citizens of the commonwealth,” she continued. “When I look out into this room right now, I see incredible potential to work together to ensure Massachusetts remains the world leader for research and development. We’ve built the success that I’ve detailed through unprecedented and sustained bipartisan efforts across industry, government and academia.”

An economic development bill that the Healey administration has been working on will include the reauthorization of the life sciences initiative, Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll told MassBio members, as well as a bevy of lawmakers in attendance, including Rep. John Lawn and Sen. Cindy Friedman, co-chairs of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing.

The bill will be filed in the “near future,” spokesperson Karissa Hand told the News Service. The legislation will be based on the administration’s economic development plan that calls for major investments in the life sciences sector.

It will land on Beacon Hill at a time when Healey and the Legislature are pulling back on some operating budget investments because they expect only minimal growth in tax collections in the next fiscal year. 

“We want to lengthen our lead in sectors like life sciences and health care and establish leadership in new industries that are up and coming, whether it’s climate tech, AI, how we connect robotics with the AI industry,” Driscoll said. 

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