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Pennsylvania Program Hopes to Boost Nascent Life-Science Sector

NEW YORK, April 2 - The governor of Pennsylvania is expected tomorrow to unveil a trio of initiatives designed to help get fledgling life-science ventures in the state on their feet.


The governor's plan, called the Life Science Greenhouse, will spread $100 million in state funds equally among three regional programs: the Biotechnology Greenhouse Corp of Southeast Pennsylvania, in the southeast; the Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse, in the southwest; and the Penn State College of Medicine, in central Pennsylvania.


The plan will also get a boost from the state's life-science industry to the tune of $150 million matching funds, according to a spokesman for the governor's office.


"We want to build on the biotechnology research at Pennsylvania's university's and capitalize on the economic potential of the life sciences industry and businesses that are in the state today, and that we look to attract in the future," the spokesman, Jason Kirsch, told GenomeWeb.


The initiative, which spans the entire life-science spectrum, hopes to give academic researchers, start-up companies, and larger companies the resources "to coordinate efforts among the universities ... in the reason to make sure there is a channel for collaboration," said Kirsch. This would mean cash as well as practical guidance, he said. "We want to ease the road from research to development to commercialization and to help [scientists] tap into and connect with the resources ... available in [each] region ... to help [them] take [their] idea and move it."


In exchange, companies or technologies born with the programs' help will be required to open up shop in the area, hire staff locally, or "give back" to the state in other non-monetary ways. Firms like Geneformatics, Cellomics, and Cephalon have signed on to the program to act as sort of Big Brothers to start-up biotechs, according to Kirsch.


It was not immediately clear how many people will work within each of the three programs, though Kirsch confirmed that each regional organization will be located in and headed by current players. The University City Science Center will house the southeast effort; Cellomics will be the home to the southwest; and Penn State's Milton S. Hershey Medical Center will oversee the central effort.

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