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Mass. Governor Submits $1B Life Sciences-Improvement Bill; Plan Includes New RNAi Center

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) — Faced with lagging employment growth and a sluggish bureaucracy, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick last week submitted a bill to the legislature that aims to spend $1 billion over 10 years to grow the state’s life-sciences sector.
The bill would also use tax incentives and investment funds to entice businesses to locate in the state, and fund the creation of an RNAi center to “highlight and build on the work” of Nobel Prize-winning researcher and RNAi pioneer Craig Mello, a professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
Patrick said in a statement that the goal for the Life Sciences Initiative, which he initially made public at the BIO 2007 conference in May, is for his state to “provide a global platform for bringing innovation from the drawing board to the market, from inspiration to commercialization, and from ideas to cure.”
That announcement came one week after a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers offered a gloomy depiction of the Massachusetts life sciences sphere.
As GenomeWeb Daily News sister publication BioRegion News reported in May, the report “found that employment growth in the state’s biotech sector lagged behind the national average between 2001 and 2005, while other studies said the state’s high cost of living and a slow bureaucracy spooks talent.”
According to the bill, the state will spend $500 million on public education and other facilities, and life sciences equipment; $250 million on fellowships, research grants, and workforce training programs; and $250 million on tax subsidies targeted to job creation. The state expects private colleges, institutions and companies to chip in a total of $250 million for capital, fellowships, research grants, and workforce training.
Gov. Patrick’s plan seeks to bolster the state’s Life Sciences Center Board, which would have the authority to “build capital projects, award grants, and expend funds,” as well as determine how the capital on those projects is spent.
The plan also pledges $15 million for the Massachusetts Life Sciences Investment Fund that would back “basic research, small business innovation grants, life science fellowships and workforce training.”
The bill also proposes a 2-percent tax credit for projects located in Economic Opportunity Areas, a redeemable 10-percent, 10-year carry-forward Life Sciences Investment Incentive Tax Credit, and a pass on sales tax for some bricks-and-mortar purchases.

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