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New York State Hatches Sprawling $650M Plan to Foster Biotech

Xconomy New York — 

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Monday a $650 million initiative to support the development of biotech in the state of New York, where life science businesses have had trouble for years gaining a foothold despite a strong core of biomedical research work in New York City and beyond.

The plan involves three main components: $250 million in tax incentives for both new and existing biotechs; $200 million in state grants earmarked for laboratory space; and another $100 million to invest in early-stage life science companies that will be “matched” by at least $100 million in support from private sector partnerships.

Under the plan, New York life science companies will be eligible for $10 million in yearly tax credits, and startup biotechs would get a 15 percent refundable tax credit on all R&D costs. Small life sciences businesses could get as much as a 20 percent tax credit, and angel investors will get a credit equal to 25 percent of their investment, up to a max of $250,000 per investor.

To fix its biggest problem—lack of lab space—New York will make more than 3.2 million square feet of space and 1,100 acres of developable land available, tax free, at 45 colleges and universities statewide. This includes, for example, about 250,000 square feet of available space on Long Island at Stony Brook University and Farmingdale State College, another 557,351 square feet of space at SUNY Downstate Medical College in Brooklyn, and roughly 300,000 square feet of space in Central New York.

As part of an increased investment in biotech startups, the state will host a startup competition in which firms can compete for $25,000 in grant funding. The quarterly winners will then vie for one of five $100,000 grand prizes at a yearly “Life Sciences Summit.” Additionally, Cuomo is also establishing paid internship and recruitment programs meant to help attract and groom talent to start and grow companies.

The initiative, which wasn’t given a specific name, will be run by an advisory board that Cuomo will announce in next month’s State of the State address.  Partnership for New York City president Kathryn Wylde said in a statement that the initiative could help create more than 25,000 new jobs in the state and put New York “on par with California and Massachusetts as the nation’s premiere centers of commercial life sciences.”

New York has a long way to go to meet such a goal. Year after year, the biotech hubs in Massachusetts and California top the lists of venture investments in life sciences companies, while New York—despite its wealth of academic institutions and financial power—trail far behind. Life sciences are, relatively speaking, an untapped resource in New York. But the state and New York City itself have been trying to lay foundations for a biotech ecosystem.

The Alexandria Center for Life Science, a sprawling complex on Manhattan’s East Side, opened in 2010 and currently houses some of the most ambitious biotech startups in New York. Three years later, both the New York Genome Center and the Tri-Institutional Therapeutics Discovery Institute—collaborative initiatives involving several academic centers—were established to spur on life sciences in Manhattan. Other efforts, like a $150 million biotech fund backed by the New York City Economic Development Corp., and just last month, Bridge Medicines, have followed. Cuomo’s initiative is the latest step forward.