$1B set for state life sci; Measure awaits Senate approval.


Byline: John J. Monahan

BOSTON - Cloning to create stem cells that will cure diseases or develop into new organs for transplants is just one facet of the life sciences industry that could get a billion-dollar boost in Massachusetts with passage of a bill expected to soon emerge from the House and then quickly pass the Senate.

House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi said yesterday the bill will be voted on in a matter of days. It was still being worked on yesterday by House leaders who want to expand the tax incentives and grants in the bill for a broader group of high-tech businesses than first proposed by Gov. Deval L. Patrick.

Senate President Therese Murray, D-Plymouth said she also wants the measure to support related industries such as medical devices. She said the Senate is "prepared and ready" to "move it through the Senate quickly" once it gains House approval.

Mr. Patrick last summer filed the legislation aimed at bridging a funding gap between primary research and commercial development of life sciences products and technology, and at holding onto leading researchers currently working in Massachusetts in order to help life sciences companies expand here.

It would provide a combination of tax breaks, research grants and state investments in new research facilities that altogether would pump $1 billion into life sciences development over 10 years. That includes about $500 million in borrowed state funds, about $250 million in tax breaks for private industries and about $250 million in research and job training grants.

According to Mr. Patrick, after postponing action on the bill last fall, Mr. DiMasi promised to have the House act on the bill by Friday. It was unclear whether the bill would make it to the House floor during a formal session tomorrow.

For Worcester, the legislation represents a major infusion of financing for new genetic research facilities as well as tax breaks, research grants and other incentives to encourage new business and expand existing ones in biotechnology.

The legislation would provide $90 million for a $265 million RNAi and genetic therapy research center that would be built at the University of Massachusetts Medical School campus in Worcester. Research grants and other funding also would help secure future operations for the state stem cell bank being set up by the medical school in Shrewsbury with money from an earlier round of life sciences funding.

Ms. Murray said yesterday the state is on "the right track"...

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