Grants to fund new life sciences research and industry partnerships at UMass Amherst and the Pioneer Valley Life Sciences Institute
AMHERST, Mass. – Governor Deval Patrick and the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC) today announced over $100 million in grants for life-sciences-related capital projects in western Massachusetts, including $95 million for the University of Massachusetts (UMass) Amherst and $5.5 million for the Pioneer Valley Life Sciences Institute (PVLSI), a joint venture of Baystate Medical Center in Springfield and UMass Amherst.
“Our Life Sciences strategy is about choosing to shape our future - investing today to leave a better Commonwealth for the next generation,” said Governor Patrick. “These investments support the kind of innovation that propels our economy forward and prepares our citizens for the 21st century global marketplace.”
Through the MLSC, Massachusetts is investing $1 billion over 10 years in the growth of the state’s life sciences supercluster. These investments are being made under the Massachusetts Life Sciences Initiative, passed by the state Legislature and signed into law by Governor Patrick in 2008.
“A key strategy of the Life Sciences Center is to use our capital dollars to accelerate life sciences-driven economic development across the Commonwealth by engaging and building on regional strengths,” said Dr. Susan Windham-Bannister, Ph.D., President and CEO of the MLSC. “Our investments in UMass Amherst and PVLSI are great examples of that strategy. In addition to its role as a leading academic institution, UMass Amherst is an important catalyst for economic development in western Massachusetts. The MLSC’s investment in three new Centers at UMass Amherst: a Biosensors & Big Data Center, Healthcare Informatics & Technology Innovation Center and the Models to Medicine Center enhance the University’s ability to support both of these missions. The grant for PVLSI also will strengthen the region’s leadership in the expanding field of bioinformatics, building on the $4.5-million grant that we recently awarded to the Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center in Holyoke.”
The grant for UMass Amherst will fund construction to fit out and equip a substantial portion of the university’s new $157-million Life Sciences Laboratories. This building will house three new research centers led by faculty and will be dedicated to partnering with regional life sciences and precision manufacturing companies to develop innovative products and services. The three centers are as follows:
- Personalized Health Monitoring, focused on developing nanotechnology and large dataset management to improve health care through low-cost, wearable, wireless sensors that analyze patient data continuously in real time. This center will bring bio-sensor technology, nanotechnology, new polymer and manufacturing techniques, “big data” and information technology together to design, develop and test the next generation of wearable bio-sensors and healthy lifestyle applications. Biomanufacturing firms, medical device makers, big data analysts and other health care industry partners will produce prototypes, test them and assess manufacturing feasibility.
- Bioactive Delivery, focused on discovery and application of new drug, agricultural and “nutriceutical” compounds. It will draw on discoveries and research by UMass Amherst faculty who, for example, develop synthetic molecules that can fight infection in new ways and design all-natural formulations for delivering oil-soluble vitamins and other nutrients in food products.
- Models to Medicine, focused on translating basic protein research by UMass Amherst experts into new therapeutic targets. This center will capitalize on an explosion of discoveries over the past 10 years that suggest a variety of protein dysfunctions play a role in Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cancer and infectious diseases.
“This investment is an outstanding example of how world-class research at UMass, with support from the MLSC, can create a dynamic and prosperous future for the Commonwealth,” said Robert Caret, president of the University of Massachusetts. “The development of three new research centers in partnership with industry will enhance technology transfer and translate inventions into products and services that will make life better for all of us.”
“We are grateful to the MLSC for selecting UMass Amherst to be a catalyst for new advances in the life sciences,” said UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy. “This grant positions us for new directions in translational research and for increased engagement with industry and other educational institutions in western Massachusetts and throughout the Commonwealth. UMass is committed to growing these relationships to advance economic development as part of our land grant mission.”
“The UMass campus can have a large impact on local area businesses and has been working with regional groups connecting companies to new technologies,” said Ed Leyden, co-chair of the Advanced Manufacturing Collaborative and president of Ben Franklin Design and Manufacturing Company in Agawam. “I see the current life science initiative as another excellent means to engage local companies.”
The grant for PVLSI, located adjacent to Baystate Medical Center’s main campus in Springfield’s North End, will support the development of a new Center of Innovation in Health Informatics and Technology, focused on advancing public/private-sector partnerships and incubating innovative technology solutions developed by start-ups and larger, more established vendor firms in areas such as population health management, health care quality, “big data” analytics and mobile health.
“The assets we have in place in Springfield—beginning with a strong integrated health system in Baystate Health, and extending to the Pioneer Valley’s advanced high-tech manufacturing capabilities—provide a unique opportunity for our prospective start-up and vendor partners to accelerate and incubate their products here in western Massachusetts, benefiting our community’s health care and economy,” said Joel Vengco, vice president and chief information officer of Baystate Health.
“As a champion of the life sciences industry for nearly two decades, I am thrilled with today's announcement. In my opinion, the expansion of research and development in the field of the life sciences can improve the quality of health care, grow the economy and create jobs in the Pioneer Valley. These two major grants can be game changers for the life sciences and biotechnology communities in western Massachusetts,” said Congressman Richard E. Neal.
“The ripple effects of these investments will be enormously positive for western Massachusetts,” Massachusetts State Senate Majority Leader Stan Rosenberg said. “Not only will this funding help place our flagship campus exactly where it needs to be -- at the vanguard of life sciences research and development -- it will also help create good jobs and technological innovations that we can scarcely imagine today. This project, which is engaging the best and brightest from academia, government and the private sector, is an outstanding example of what can be accomplished when we work together in a spirit of partnership.”
“The growth of the life sciences industry is crucial to the continued health of the Massachusetts economy,” said Representative Ellen Story. “Equally important to the Western Massachusetts economy is our continued support for the University of Massachusetts, as it embarks on its most ambitious expansion in half a century. I am grateful that this investment in our economy has been made at the flagship campus of the University of Massachusetts.”
“MassBio was proud to support UMass in this process, and is thrilled to see investment in these key industry areas,” said Robert K. Coughlin, President & CEO of MassBio. “These grants enable UMass Amherst and the PVLSI to continue to anchor the life sciences industry in the Pioneer Valley and Western Massachusetts, underlining the fact that the industry truly reaches to all of our borders and the regions in between.”
The MLSC is a quasi-public agency of the Commonwealth tasked with implementing the Massachusetts Life Sciences Act. The MLSC’s mission is to create jobs in the life sciences and support vital scientific research that will improve the human condition. This work includes making financial investments in public and private institutions that are advancing life sciences research, development and commercialization as well as building ties among sectors of the Massachusetts life sciences community. For more information, visit www.masslifesciences.com.