Thursday, May 31, 2007

Massachusetts' biotech plan may top peers'

Specialists: Outline hints it may be more flexible, cost-effective

By Stephen Heuser, Globe Staff | May 31, 2007

Governor Deval Patrick's proposal to inject $1 billion into medical research and biotechnology is a complex plan whose details have yet to be worked out, and it depends on the Legislature's willingness to fund it over a decade. But his strategy could also be more flexible and cost effective than competing plans in California and other states, according to policy specialists and a Globe analysis.

Patrick unveiled his Life Science Initiative this month before a packed crowd in Boston at the world's largest biotech convention, saying it would combat "competitor states and foreign nations" trolling aggressively for a piece of the state's marquee industry. He promised money for a new stem-cell bank, job training, and biomedical research, as well as tax breaks for companies hiring new workers.

Behind the $1 billion promise is a stream of money that is far from guaranteed. The Senate and House would need to find $25 million in the state budget every year for 10 years. They would also need to authorize $500 million in new bonds and write a new law making life-science companies eligible for up to $250 million in tax benefits.

"This is an initiative that's probably just starting -- that's going to require a lot of moving parts to come together to make it go," said Patrick Kelly , a vice president at the national Biotechnology Industry Organization who tracks state biotechnology policies.

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