State is a ‘pioneer’ in life sciences, but experts say more help needed to maintain industry leader status

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Laura Kleiman was running a research center at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute when her mother was diagnosed with cancer.

In exploring potential treatment options, Kleiman said repurposing drugs — especially those that are widely available — could be key to developing affordable cancer treatments.

Kleiman then left the institute and started working. Reboot RxA non-profit health tech startup that aims to fast-track cancer treatments.

Reboot Rx is one startup that is part of Massachusetts’ “Brave Community” research.

“It’s one of the most exciting regions in the country, if not the most exciting, to be able to do research and develop new treatments for patients,” Kleiman said.

Targeted and intentional investments in Massachusetts’ life sciences sector make the state a leader in the industry, reports say. But experts say continued leadership depends on helping startups grow over logistical hurdles like high real estate costs and transportation problems.

Massachusetts’ biomanufacturing workforce grew 6.3% year-over-year, outpacing New York and California; According to the MassBio 2023 Industry Snapshot.

While we all know that biotech experienced a cooling off period after a few red-hot years, our workforce growth, lab space expansion, a large share of the overall national [venture capital] investments, and strong government relationships make me optimistic for a strong 2024 and beyond,” said MassBio CEO and President Kendale Berlin O’Connell. He wrote in a statement.

Boston University Questrom School of Business Professor Avi Seidman Massachusetts was a “pioneer” in the life sciences.

“We combine academic excellence with world-class hospitals,” Seidman said. “We have a very successful ecosystem.”

Graduates from biotech-related academic programs have increased by more than 50% and master’s degrees by 100% in the past 10 years. According to the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center.

The National Institutes of Health gave $1.48 billion to Massachusetts higher education and research institutions and hospitals received 51% of all NIH funding by 2022. According to MassBio.

In addition to support from universities and hospitals, David Friedman, co-founder of NanoView Biosciences, said large companies in the state are important to startups.

“Having that network of companies in the general environment is very important,” he said. “They can get training, or they can be customers or partners with your startups.”

Friedman said Massachusetts has made it a goal to “create a life sciences hub here.”

“I think it’s a very thoughtful process in Massachusetts,” Friedman said. “I feel like it’s a natural part of the ecosystem here now, but I think that’s because people continue to emphasize it.”

Early investment

In the year In 2008, former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed a 10-year, $1 billion investment in Massachusetts’ life sciences industry.

of MLSC – managed by government officials and industry leaders – are tasked with growing the life sciences industry through innovative infrastructure, targeted capital programs and tax incentives that facilitate job creation.

Friedman participated in his company MLSC internship program It provides funding to startups to hire interns.

“It helped, especially when we didn’t have any money in the first place,” he said. “It helped increase the work we were doing.”

For her part, Kleiman said the nonprofit is involved in an internship program that allows her to “tap into the youth talent in the state.” Massachusetts Next Generation Initiative Provides leadership training and networking.

Seidman said that places like New York, which have prominent hospitals, are pouring more money into biotech startups to “emulate” Boston’s success.

In the year In 2022, the NIH allocated an additional $157.8 million in total funding to New York, but Massachusetts received an additional $295 million. Individual financial support.

Even though New York has more funding, Patrick Abuchalache, a professor at Boston University’s business school, said it won’t put Massachusetts at a disadvantage.

“[The industry] “It’s still more of a supply of talent, research, and information than the capital,” he said.

Industrial investor Bruce Booth says the number of new startups in the industry has dwindled in Boston over the past two years, leaving the city with surplus real estate space dedicated to the industry.

“We currently have more space than the ecosystem can adequately accommodate,” said Booth, a partner at Atlas Ventures. “I think it will take a few years to grow to all the space options available.”

Twelve million square feet of space is expected to be completed by 2024, with more than nine million square feet open to future tenants. According to Cushman and Wakefield. Approximately 36% is pre-leased.

“If supply is coming in faster than you want from the start-up stage, you’re going to have the kind of vacancies we’ve had in the commercial real estate epidemic in downtown Boston,” Abuchalache said.

High real estate costs have made retaining young talent more difficult, Seidman said.

“When you’re a young scientist, real estate is a big part of your monthly expenses,” he says. “The government should find ways to help companies cover those costs for academic expenses.”

Seidman said Massachusetts could support startups by diversifying the biotech subsector and increasing the number of incubators and accelerators in the state.

Kleiman said the startup would appreciate the support from the state to strengthen her startup’s policy initiatives.

“I think it would be helpful to have a line of communication,” she said. “It would be great to talk to anyone in Massachusetts who can help move these initiatives forward.”

Booth said improving the state’s transportation infrastructure to improve worker transportation would be important to the industry.

“It’s incredibly challenging and one of the biggest barriers to continued growth and acceleration,” he said. “This is a place where some more thoughtful urban planning and economic development in the biotech ecosystem would be very welcome.”

Despite these concerns, Booth said Massachusetts’ “great focus” on companies’ focus sets it apart from other states and “allows for risk-taking.”

“There are a lot of companies, so if your science at your company isn’t working, you can usually move to another company relatively quickly, because there are so many other opportunities,” he said. The kinds of science and medicine that enable people to be brave are what we want to do.

Lindsay Schachnow writes for the newspaper from Boston University’s Statehouse Program.

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