$90M for medical school lab in bill; House has $1B life sciences bill.


Byline: John J. Monahan

BOSTON - Plans to establish an advanced genetic therapy research facility at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester moved a step closer to fruition yesterday as House Democrats included the $90 million state share of the design and construction costs in their version of a $1 billion, 10-year state life sciences investment bill.

House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi, D-Boston, unveiled the package, which also includes hundreds of millions worth of grants and tax incentives for researchers, worker training and business expansions. The effort is intended to advance Massachusetts as a world leader in biomedical research and manufacturing.

Like the initial version filed in July by Gov. Deval L. Patrick, the legislation includes $500 million in borrowed state funds, $250 million in tax credits and $250 million in direct research grants.

Mr. DiMasi said the bill would be voted on by the House before the end of the month and then go to the state Senate where Senate President Therese Murray, D-Plymouth, said it is expected to gain quick approval.

The research center at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester is expected to build on the Nobel Prize-winning physiology research of UMass biologist Dr. Craig C. Mello that focuses on use of RNA interference, or RNAi, in cells to shut down actions of specific genes. The center is expected to cost about $295 million, and create about 700 permanent jobs and 5,000 construction jobs.

The bill also includes $9.5 million for a biolab at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University

in Grafton; $95 million to create a life sciences center at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst; $12 million for improvements to the Interstate 93 interchange in Andover to help with a planned expansion of Wyeth Pharmaceuticals; and $5.7 million in additional funds for an international stem-cell bank and registry at the medical school in Worcester.

It addition, there is $40 million for seed money to bridge federal funding gaps for life sciences research, to be known as the Dr. Mello Small Business Grant program. The bill also would provide $30 million in grants for postdoctoral and graduate-student life sciences research; $25 million for biotechnology workforce training programs; and $25 million for pediatric stem cell research grants. Five regional innovation centers also would be established to foster new life sciences companies and expand the biotech...

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