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Lowell Sun 02-13-08

STATE VOWS $4M FOR UML PLAN: Governor to Visit University Today to Announce Funding

Lowell Sun Online, By Matt Murphy,

Article Last Updated: 02/13/2008 01:41:59 PM EST

BOSTON -- Gov. Deval Patrick will announce $4 million in state funding today for UMass Lowell to complete construction on its new medical-device research facility on East Campus, a shot in the arm for the collaborative program that has businesses statewide lining up work with the university. 

The funding from the state will allow the university to begin immediately moving to finish the facility within the next year, while sending a signal to medical-device companies throughout the state that UMass Lowell will be open for business.

"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 companies and new jobs along the way," said Patrick, who was scheduled to make the announcement this morning at the Wannalancit Mills.

M2D2 is a collaborative effort between UMass Lowell and the UMass Medical School in Worcester designed to help small life-science companies without adequate resources research and develop innovative products that can sold on the commercial market.

UMass Lowell Chancellor Marty Meehan said the M2D2 Center can be extremely effective at helping life-science start-ups develop marketable medical devices at a time when venture capital is drying up.

The building -- the Institute for Plastics Innovations on the corner of Aiken and Perkins streets, across from LeLacheur Park -- has already been gutted and is ready for construction for new office and laboratory space.

Meehan and M2D2 Director Stephen McCarthy were in Boston two months ago lobbying for the necessary funding from the Massachusetts Life Science Center. Though the Patrick administration and members of the board were supportive, there

was a reluctance among some members to invest so much capital into one project.

"Any time you're working with companies that are trying to develop products and investing not only in innovation but trying to bring these products to market, the timeliness is critical," Meehan said yesterday.

With state Sen. Steven Panagiotakos, D-Lowell, lobbying hard on behalf of the project on Beacon Hill, the money will now come from capital bond money approved in the early 1990s that was never allocated.

Patrick said the project reflects the type of investment he hopes to make if and when the Legislature approves his $1 billion life-science initiative within the coming weeks.

Panagiotakos said: "It's a really great project, cutting-edge research that combines UMass Worcester and UMass Lowell working with a myriad of companies already lined up with products. I think it's going to pay economic benefits faster than any other research dollars that we can spend." 

UMass Lowell has already spent $4.5 million on the building.