Biotech 2010: Vision for the Future

January 13, 2003

Tags: Awards + Announcements

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Massachusetts can seize the opportunity to achieve global leadership in the life-sciences economy if the Commonwealth takes a more active state role in the promotion and support of biotechnology, according to a new report issued this month by the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council (MBC) and the Boston Consulting Group.

MassBiotech 2010 paints a vision for the future that can only be achieved through aggressive state championship of biotechnology and science education, the report authors say. If state leaders fail to act aggressively, they predict, Massachusetts will lose in the international competition for biotech jobs; already the share of national biotech jobs located in Massachusetts has declined over the past five years.

However, if the state acts now, by 2010 the biotech sector could create nearly 100,000 new in-state jobs (a third in biotech proper and two-thirds in service and support), and could raise more than $1 billion in personal income tax revenues.

“The state’s political, commercial, and academic leaders need to move quickly and decisively to capture for Massachusetts the advantage that has already been created” by the Commonwealth’s powerhouse biotech enterprise, the report says.

This enterprise currently comprises 280 biotech companies in Massachusetts, more than three times the number 10 years ago. Some 230 of these companies were founded in Massachusetts; the rest were drawn by the unique mix of talent and innovation that characterizes the life sciences scene here. Employment in biotech has grown at an annual rate of 10 percent from about 18,000 people in 1996 to approximately 30,000 in 2001 – the vast majority located in the Cambridge-Worcester corridor. The industry’s 60 public companies generated $6.7 billion in revenues in 2001.

To leverage previous successes in biotechnology, the report calls on the new governor and incoming legislature to champion the biotech industry and become a catalyst for biotech economic development; improve the business climate for biotechnology and the life-sciences sector; work with interested local communities to speed zoning and permitting processes for biotech businesses; and invest in strong science education, so Massachusetts citizens can find employment in the expanding biotech sector.

But the onus isn’t only on the state, the report’s authors say; “it is equally important for the Massachusetts life-sciences community – universities, research institutes, hospitals, and companies – to organize itself for regional advantage.” Industry and academic leaders should organize a clear leadership group to represent the interests of life sciences in the Commonwealth; improve networking and collaboration between and within the industry and the academic communities; work together to address issues of shared interest like technology transfer, clinical trials, and labor forecasting; and make a concerted commitment to active public outreach so the public-at-large continues to support life-sciences research.

The wild card, of course, is the state’s dicey economic condition. “We are sensitive to the constraints imposed by the current budget crisis,” the report explains, “but we are convinced that much can be done at little or no direct cost to the treasury.”

In preparing the report, MBC and The Boston Consulting Group interviewed more than 60 CEOs and senior executives in biotech companies, pharmaceutical research organizations, universities, hospitals, and government. They also tapped the expertise of representatives from more than 50 regional institutions who served on topic teams and writing committees, and pulled together a cross-industry advisory panel made up of the leaders of 20 top life-sciences institutions in Massachusetts.

One of the biggest concerns the report’s authors uncovered was the fast pace at which other states are trying to build their own biotech economies. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, for example, North Carolina made a conscious decision to position itself as a leader in the emerging biotechnology industry. Today, the state’s cumulative investment in biotechnology initiatives is $135 million, an investment that has triggered more than $2 billion in direct out-of-state investment through venture capital financing, manufacturing investment, and federal research grants. California has been even more aggressive in its development strategy, including passing recent legislation to support and provide funding for stem-cell research. Similar legislation was introduced in December on Beacon Hill.

“Massachusetts is behind in the race for regional advantage,” the report warns. “Other regional centers have stronger support from their state governments and are better organized internally to complete for new growth and new jobs.”


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