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Businesses Back Biomanufacturing

Biomanufacturing Grant Spurs Business Contributions

Dr. Carl Lawton, associate professor of chemical engineering, works in his laboratory.

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About $175,000 in seed funding from Chancellor William T. Hogan and the University of Massachusetts President’s Office has leveraged nearly three times that amount in biotechnology business donations, while nine Massachusetts firms are publicly supporting an effort to expand campus-based efforts statewide.

About $750,000 in donations and pledges from Wyeth, Invensys and other companies to move biotech research out of the lab and toward clinical trials are bolstering efforts spearheaded by Carl Lawton, associate professor in chemical engineering, who directs UMass Lowell’s biomanufacturing center.

“The process of bringing a biotech drug from laboratory to full-scale manufacturing is long and expensive,” says Lawton. “The work we have begun on campus ߝ and hope to expand throughout the state ߝ helps biotech firms move operations toward manufacturing. The idea is to create a culture of growing biotech business in Massachusetts.” 

Nine biotech companies in all ߝ both those currently manufacturing in Massachusetts, such as Genzyme and Wyeth, as well as those that might in the future, such as Antigenics, Merrimack and Millennium -- have publicly stated their support for Lawton’s efforts.

In addition to his industry partners, Lawton is partnering with UMass Dartmouth, where a large-scale production facility would be located under the proposal, and researchers at WPI and Tufts. A business plan for the proposal, called the Massachusetts Biomanufacturing Center, projects that 10 potential new drug compounds per year would be helped by the Center’s services, generating about 8,000 jobs in ten years.

Paul Vigeant, UMass Dartmouth’s assistant chancellor for Economic Development, says the state’s south coast is poised for more biomanufacturing. “Avant in Fall River already is manufacturing. Establishing a Massachusetts Biomanufacturing Center would help create a biomanufacturing cluster in Southeastern Massachusetts,” he says.

A business plan drawn up for the proposal estimates that 10 new manufacturing factories creating about 8,000 jobs could result from a decade of operating a state-supported Massachusetts Biomanufacturing Center.