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Boston Globe 02-13-08


Eagle Tribune Online - February 17, 2008

LOWELL— The growing Merrimack Valley medical device industry got a boost this week from Gov. Deval Patrick, who announced that $4 million in state funds is being funneled to the Massachusetts Medical Device Development Center at UMass Lowell.

The center, also known as M2D2, helps entrepreneurs move innovative new medical devices from concept to market, often a difficult and costly task.

Hooks Johnston of Andover, who sits on the steering committee for M2D2, said that in addition to the $4 million announced Wednesday, the center has received $4.2 million from the college, another $1 million or so from private and foundation sources, $500,000 from the John Adams Foundation as well as other grants from a variety of sources.

The money is needed to refurbish a building on the UMass Lowell campus into a research and testing facility that could also be used by entrepreneurs to test their prototypes, Johnston said. 

"We want to renovate an existing building on the UMass campus," he said. "It will be a life sciences center with labs, clean rooms, sterile rooms and project rooms. We will have a center for people to bring their prototypes for testing and the like."

He said fundraising is not complete, and the college is hoping for some funding from the $1 billion life sciences bill announced by state lawmakers on Thursday.

"I think we need another $1 million or $2 million to renovate the building," he said.

Johnston touted the effort as a "grass-roots," or "organic" initiative being pushed by UMass Lowell and the UMass Medical School in Worcester.

The idea is to mesh the Lowell school's engineering expertise with the medical knowledge of the Worcester school.

UMass Lowell hopes to open the center within a year.

"I'm delighted to join in announcing this next step in the growth of the life sciences in Massachusetts," Patrick said during a press conference in Lowell on Wednesday. "We are proud to continue our partnership with UMass Lowell and our private partners in developing the innovation infrastructure we need to move new ideas into cures, creating new companies and new jobs along the way."

The funding will come from a bond authorization that has already been approved by the Legislature. 

M2D2 is a resource for the state's smaller medical device companies, offering inventors and executives easy, affordable and coordinated access to world-class researchers and resources at the Lowell and Worcester campuses of the University of Massachusetts.

Project coordinators at the center provide access to UMass Lowell's extensive expertise and facilities in medical device engineering, product design, prototyping and manufacturing.

"By funding this home for UMass Lowell's Medical Device Development initiative, the governor is helping to grow the life sciences economy," said state Sen. Steven C. Panagiotakos, chairman of Senate Ways and Means Committee. "The governor and I are committed to boosting this sector of the life sciences 'supercluster' — one that can lead to jobs, and new state revenue, quickly."

Through M2D2, plastics engineering and medical experts, working with a steering committee of industry veterans and venture capital managers, guide companies through the pipeline from idea to production. M2D2 is co-directed by UML's Stephen McCarthy, a Ph.D. and professor of plastics engineering who holds nine patents and is the founder of the nanotechnology-based company Encapsion; and Dr. Sheila Noone, UMass Worcester's director of clinical research.

"By committing funds to this project, the Patrick administration is walking the walk when it comes to stimulating the life sciences industry," said UMass Lowell Chancellor Marty Meehan. "This facility will be fully functional within months of receiving the funds, serving as a prototype itself for the state's proposed 'regional innovation centers', which are intended to generate jobs in the life sciences sectors."

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