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Biomanufacturing Wins Another $150,000

John Adams Innovation Institute Grant will Expand Center’s Reach

Director of the biomanufacturing center, Carl Lawton, standing at left, showcases a new 65-liter biofermenter and the students and staff who are moving the center forward: senior chemical engineering students Sara McCarthy, seated, and Victoria Tran; Chemistry doctoral student, Don Vespa, seated, and Chemical Engineering’s staff engineer Kenneth Umemba.

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Additional outside funding is fueling the biomanufacturing center at UMass Lowell, this time in the form of a $150,000 grant from the Mass Technology Collaborative’s John Adams Innovation Institute. The grant follows $175,000 in seed funding from Chancellor William T. Hogan and University of Massachusetts President Jack Wilson, which has leveraged about $750,000 in industry support to date.

“We are grateful to the Mass Technology Collaborative for supporting these efforts,” says the project’s director, Assoc. Prof. Carl Lawton. “The funding will allow us to begin what we hope will be scaled up to a statewide program. The aim is to help biotechnology firms make the leap from research and development to manufacturing operations ߝ and at capturing those jobs for Massachusetts residents.”

A needs assessment of the biotechnology industry in Massachusetts shows that about 40 companies are expected to make biomanufacturing location decisions in the next three years.  Lawton has a proposal before the Legislature to expand the reach of the biomanufacturing center statewide, which has received support in the economic stimulus bill. That bill is pending before a conference committee.

If approved, the legislation could provide $25 to $35 million for biomanufacturing facilities at UMass Lowell and UMass Dartmouth. At Lowell, an advanced manufacturing building would be partly dedicated to the Center’s needs, and, at Dartmouth, a $10-15 million large-scale bioprocessing facility would be built.

With such support, it is expected that 10 new manufacturing plants and 8,000 jobs would be generated within 10 years.

Under the Innovation Institute grant, UMass Lowell will lead a collaborative effort to establish two pilot programs. The biomanufacturing center’s team, led by Lawton, will apply state-of-the-art technologies to a company’s specific product, provide professional education courses, establish an applied research program and conduct further needs assessments.

Lawton’s team also plans to establish an applied research program aimed at improving the quality, cost and productivity of large-scale biomanufacturing. Partners include UMass Dartmouth, Tufts, WPI and Nova Biomedical, a multi-national corporation headquartered in Waltham, which is a lead contributor. Companies such as Antigenics, Cambrex, Genzyme, Invensys, Millennium and Wyeth also have pledged support for the statewide effort.

The award is the second to UMass Lowell from the Innovation Institute Fund. A $5 million award for a Nanomanufacturing Center of Excellence was granted in late 2004.