Susan Windham-Bannister on the State of the State’s $1B Life Sciences Initiative, Part II

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comfort. Over 80 percent of our investment dollars have gone to recipients outside of Route 128, and about two-thirds of the funds have gone to the central part of the state. [In fact, the center awarded $90 million of the $191 million it invested in its first two years to the University of Massachusetts Medical School to support construction of a new biomedical research center on its Worcester campus.] The funds are very well balanced between public and private academic institutions, and between large and small companies. Our story is one that demonstrates that, not only are we making good investment decisions, they are also well distributed—and those are factors that are reviewers are taking into account. I think it has enabled us to float above what is considered political interest to get our work done.

X: What’s your process for making investment decisions?

SW-B: We have a process that is rigorous and transparent and for most of our programs, competitive. I think we’ve gotten tremendous respect from the Legislature and other stakeholders about the way in which we go about making our investment decisions. We have a blue-ribbon scientific advisory board, which is broadly representative of the regions of the state and the academic institutions and industry. We have peer review groups that represent experts from industry sectors, the investment community, the academic community, and we have our board of directors.

X: What has the center lost with the significant cuts to its investment and administrative budget in the past two fiscal years?

SW-B: I really like to point out what we’ve been able to do with what we’ve received. We have a focused strategy. We’re looking to use our dollars to seed, accelerate, and in every case, get others to match at least dollar-for-dollar what we invest. As you can see, we’ve been able to get a lot done with our funds. That being said, what the commonwealth has seen as an opportunity cost is we could have created more jobs and attracted more funds. So we think about it as, what more could we have gotten done [if our budget was not cut]. We feel very good about what we’ve done with our dollars. We’re hoping that the state will continue to stay the course, because we’re demonstrating what we can do with a great reduction in our dollars. Think of what we could do if we received more funds.

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