The Commonwealth of Possible 

Jun 06, 2024

By Vasundhra Sangar, MassBio Senior Director of Policy

Governor Maura Healey wearing a gray pant suit standing behind a clear podium with a microphone in front of a large video screen featuring images of women at previous MassBio events.
Governor Maura Healey addressing MassBio’s State of Possible Conference in Cambridge, MA on April 24, 2024. (Photo by John Wilcox)

The 2024 State of Possible Conference was charged with anticipation from beginning to end – excitement to hear from industry leaders and key decisionmakers, and a palpable eagerness to get back out there and continue leading the world in the discovery of life-saving therapies. The policy conversations led by Governor Maura Healey and Congressman Jake Auchincloss of Massachusetts’ 4th Congressional district touted the focus and intentional investment Massachusetts used to pursue the life sciences industry before eventually leading the pack, with 18 of the top 20 pharmaceutical companies now calling the state home. Both speeches complemented the overall themes of the day with calls for increased momentum and a doubling-down on Massachusetts’ collective resolve to lengthen its lead and thereby ensure the nation’s global lead in biotechnology innovation.  

Governor Healey’s walk-out song did the talking for her as a cover of Beyonce’s “This Ain’t Texas,” introduced her to the stage. She carried the energy of that statement to drive home how far Massachusetts has come since first authorizing major investments in the life sciences almost two decades ago. After acknowledging Massachusetts natural disposition to harness the industry, given a ready presence of leading hospitals, universities, and research institutions, the Governor underscored that 32% of all biopharma venture capital funding in the United States came to Massachusetts companies in 2023. She highlighted areas where the industry is moving beyond the traditional ‘Cambridge cluster,’ and into places like the Merrimack Valley, promoting partnerships with institutions such as UMass Lowell, where the surrounding economy is shifting from textiles toward bioscience while maintaining its roots in manufacturing.

The Governor affirmed MassBio’s belief that “families around the world are depending on Team Massachusetts,” when she said just that. “The investments the state makes in this sector translate not only into jobs and opportunities at home, but therapies, treatments, and cures worldwide.”  

This is when she turned her focus to the work that remains to be done. When she says “Team Massachusetts,” the Governor was clear she is not only referring to her cabinet or her partners in the legislature, but also the partners throughout the room during the State of Possible – industry leaders, researchers, company executives, and scientists alike – experts who know how important it is to build on Massachusetts’ original investments and who want to promote what is still possible here for the future of life sciences. She recommitted to another intentional state investment through her first economic development bond bill as governor (H.4459 An Act relative to strengthening Massachusetts’ economic leadership) through which she has requested a $1 billion bond authorization for another round of strategic investment in the life sciences over the next ten years. This investment will translate to increased facilities and capital grants and enhanced workforce training and development opportunities through the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, including company-wide tax incentives for hiring and expanding in the state, and more. She emphasized the need to break out of “health care siloes” and holistically approach topics like health equity, health outcomes, job opportunities, regionalization, and accessibility to get everyone to contribute to and benefit from the presence of the life sciences in Massachusetts. And finally, she called on the room to ensure Massachusetts’ lead is strengthened before reemphasizing her belief in the ability of the life sciences to transform legacies, identities, and futures in the Commonwealth.  

Congressman Jake Auchincloss in a suit and tie speaking behind a clear podium in front of a large video screen featuring a photo montage of Massachusetts city scenes.
Congressman Jake Auchincloss address MassBio’s State of Possible Conference in Cambridge on April 24, 2024. (Photo by John Wilcox)

Congressman Auchincloss followed the Governor’s remarks by reminding the room of Massachusetts’ historic tendency to be a national leader and asserting that the state’s approach to biotechnology should not be any different. He conveyed the need for American leadership in biotechnology innovation, calling on his colleagues in Congress to prioritize biotechnology the same way semiconductor technologies and production were prioritized through the CHIPS Act, suggesting a “CHIPS Act 2.0, specifically for biomanufacturing.”

He expanded on national solutions through immigration reform, to ensure the sharpest minds find their way to American companies, before honing back in on healthcare-specific reforms, including new ways to pay for therapies and more holistically define the “value” of a drug. Maintaining that reduced hospitalizations are possible through appropriate insurance coverage and benefit design, the Congressman focused the remainder of his remarks on payment models and threw in his support for pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) reform in calling for legislation to delink PBM fees from the manufacturer’s list price for a commercialized drug. Although the Congressman did not mince words when he conveyed the industry faces an “image problem,” and an uphill battle with respect to federal policy and price control challenges, he remained hopeful in the ability of the leaders in the room to shift the conversation towards establishing America’s future biotechnology leadership today.  

Both commentaries ultimately conveyed a true willingness on behalf of state leadership to understand the pillars Massachusetts must have in place for research and development to continue taking bites at the proverbial apple of discovery and innovation. While not every bite is a success – far from it, in fact – industry and government officials present at the 2024 SOP agreed that every intentional investment is a nod to our capabilities as a Commonwealth, and as a nation, to secure those successes and secure them first. We know what’s possible, and we can’t stop now.  

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