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UMMS’ MassBiologics receives $5 million to fund viral vector manufacturing facility

Massachusetts Life Sciences Center grant will ‘advance this important new therapeutic approach’

UMass Medical School Communications

April 01, 2014

Gov. Deval L. Patrick and the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC) today announced a $5 million grant for UMass Medical School’s MassBiologics to fund major lab and facility renovations, as part of a nearly $6 million initiative to support life-sciences-related capital projects in Boston. Grants were also awarded to The UMass Boston Venture Development Center and The Venture Café, in addition to more than $900,000 in funding that the MLSC announced last December for equipment and supplies at vocational technical schools and public high schools in the Boston area.

“Through the investments we are making in education, innovation and infrastructure, Massachusetts has become the global leader in life sciences,” said Gov. Patrick. “These grants represent investments in all three, and will result in new life sciences jobs in Greater Boston and beyond.”

The $5 million grant for MassBiologics will be used to build and operate a first-in-Massachusetts cGMP (Current Good Manufacturing Practice) Vector Manufacturing Center (VMC) to respond to a new era in the use of viral vectors to prevent and treat human diseases. The VMC will be a 3,900 sq. ft. commercial/clinical scale facility that will include multi-platform upstream cell culture, downstream purification and dedicated fill capabilities. The facility will be built within the existing shell space of the research and administration building at MassBiologics. The VMC will enhance the ability of the Massachusetts life sciences community to translate breakthrough science into viable commercial products. The unique set of competencies and facilities that will be possessed by the VMC do not exist in any current commercial facility capable of manufacturing virus based products.

“We are pleased to be partnering with the MLSC on a project critical to developing new lifesaving treatments for a range of human diseases,” said Chancellor Michael F. Collins. “This partnership is a wonderful example of how a targeted investment from the MLSC can further leverage the expertise found at MassBiologics for the benefit of Massachusetts’ life sciences ecosystem.”

“We are at the dawn of a new era in the use of viral vectors to prevent and treat human diseases,” said Mark S. Klempner, MD, executive vice chancellor for MassBiologics. “This facility will be able to manufacture a new generation of medicines for cancer, neurodegenerative, infectious and genetic diseases and also train the workforce for these innovative technologies. This investment by the MLSC in the medical school and MassBiologics will provide the Massachusetts life sciences community with a tremendous resource to advance this important new therapeutic approach. ”

The UMass Boston Venture Development Center (VDC) was awarded $588,848 to help build, within the 18,000 square foot VDC, a fifth ready-to-use wet laboratory, as well as a core facility with shared equipment in order to launch additional high potential life science startup companies. As a result, the VDC will be able to meet the needs of one to three additional life science startups. The increased capacity will also create internship opportunities for talented students, thereby furthering the diversity of the life science workforce, and help the VDC to be 100 percent financially self-supporting through company memberships.

The Venture Café was awarded $347,000 to continue to strengthen and connect communities of innovation. The Venture Café Foundation, the non-profit sister organization of the Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC), is responsible for the operation of and programming at District Hall in Boston’s Innovation District.

“A key strategy of the Life Sciences Center is to use our capital dollars to enable the creation of unique resources that are available to the Massachusetts life sciences community, and these cutting edge projects in the City of Boston are good examples of that,” said Susan Windham-Bannister, PhD, president & CEO of the MLSC. “The Center's grants will be used to advance biomanufacturing, provide additional accelerating space for start-up companies and increase connections within and across our innovation sectors.”

“Each of these investments, in different ways, strengthens our ties with the Massachusetts life sciences industry – by expanding our successful center for life sciences start-ups in the VDC and by creating a new and unique manufacturing resource for cutting-edge gene therapy companies in MassBiologics,” University of Massachusetts President Robert L. Caret said. “These investments reflect the tremendous value brought by UMass to industry and to the innovation economy of the Commonwealth.”

Also celebrated at Tuesday’s event were nine Greater Boston area high schools and workforce development organizations that received MLSC equipment and supply grants this past December.

“The life sciences sectors are now the fastest job producers in Massachusetts, so a key strategy of the Life Sciences Center is to use our capital dollars to ensure that students all across the commonwealth are prepared to compete successfully for these jobs,” said Dr. Windham-Bannister. “The nine high schools and organizations we are recognizing today play major roles in training the next generation of our state’s life sciences workforce, and they serve diverse populations, ensuring that training for innovation economy jobs is inclusive. Our grants help ensure that these schools can provide students with first-rate training facilities.”

Through the MLSC, Massachusetts is investing $1 billion over 10 years in the growth of the state’s life sciences ecosystem. These investments are being made under the Massachusetts Life Sciences Initiative, passed by the State Legislature and signed into law by Governor Patrick in 2008.