• WisBusiness

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

 12:25 PM 

Massachusetts announces $1.25 billion for biotech

By Brian Clark

WisBusiness.com

Ever-sensitive that the state squandered its lead in the IT world, Massachusetts officials have unveiled a plan to spend $1.25 billion to help that state stay in the top tier as a place for life science and stem cell research.

The move is in part an attempt to play catch-up with California, which several years ago passed an initiative -- valued at $3 billion -- to support stem cell research.

Tom Still, head of Wisconsin Technology Council, says he's not surprised by the Massachusetts move.

"It just underscores fact that Wisconsin biotech is living in a very competitive world," said Still, who is in Boston for BIO 2007. The international convention, which has drawn more than 20,000 people and more than 200 from the Badger State, ends today.

"States such as Massachusetts, which are already biotech hubs, are investing even more to remain competitive," he said. "We can't afford to lose time or squabble too much because we will be left behind."

Wisconsin plans to spend several hundred million dollars on the Institutes for Discovery on the UW-Madison campus. The first part of the project will break ground next year on the 1300 block of block of University Ave.

This half of the collaborative research facility will cost $150 million, which will be paid for in equal third by the state, WARF and UW-Madison grads John and Tashia Morgridge. The second portion has not yet been funded.

"Clearly, we can't spend $1 billion like Massachusetts or $3 billion like California," Still said. "But we must make sure we get it done. We have unique advantages that we do not want to see eroded."

Still noted that Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, in a column in today's Boston Globe, cited Wisconsin as a reason for his proposed investment.

"Competitor states and foreign nations are investing billions to attract our researchers, institutions and industries. And the University of Wisconsin outspent both Harvard and MIT in research and development," Patrick wrote.

UW-Madison spent $765 million in R&D in fiscal 2004, while Harvard and MIT spent less than $500 million for the same year.

"It shows our efforts are being noticed," Still said. "Massachusetts is now such a big center for biotechnology. It really says something that they feel they need to step up their investment."

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