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Johnson & Johnson Taps Lowell's M2D2 for Training Site

UMass Lowell Chancellor Jacqueline Moloney speaks at an innovation conference at M2D2 Photo by Grant Welker/Lowell Sun

UMass Lowell Chancellor Jacqueline Moloney speaks at an innovation conference at M2D2 in which Johnson & Johnson announced it was making the Lowell facility only its seventh JLab, where it will become a major sponsor. 

Lowell Sun
By Grant Welker

LOWELL -- UMass Lowell's M2D2 startup lab has been named one of a small number of training facilities run by the conglomerate Johnson & Johnson.

M2D2, or Massachusetts Medical Device Development Center, will be the company's seventh so-called JLab, university and company officials announced Thursday at event for innovation networking.

Johnson & Johnson has so-called JLabs at Kendall Square in Cambridge, Houston, Toronto, San Diego and two in San Francisco, putting Lowell in some exclusive company.

"It's nice to be recognized by Johnson & Johnson," said Steven Tello, a co-director of M2D2, his dry words illuminated by a big smile.

"I'm not excited. I'm ecstatic," added Stephen McCarthy, another co-director, just as happy as his partner in regards to the news. M2D2 had worked for three years to try getting the affiliation with Johnson & Johnson, he added.

The medical-device and pharmaceutical company was also named on Thursday as the facility's first founding sponsor, the highest-level donor counted by M2D2.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

New Jersey-based Johnson & Johnson's sponsorship also includes a medical-device start-up competition called the Quickfire Challenge in which the winner will get lab space in M2D2 for free for one year, with access to Johnson & Johnson mentoring.

The winner will be announced in May, when the JLab is officially launched.

"We're really excited about this collaboration because M2D2 has really built something interesting in this med-tech incubator," said Lesley Stolz, the head of JLabs California.

Opening a lab in Lowell "felt like a perfect storm," she said, mentioning the proximity to the Cambridge lab and Massachusetts' success in life sciences.

Kadir Kadiresan, a senior vice president for new ventures at Johnson & Johnson, said that for medical-device companies, having access to UMass Lowell and the UMass Medical School in Worcester is critical.

"This space has been a lifeline for many of early-stage medical-device companies around Massachusetts," he said.

M2D2 opened in 2010 in Wannalancit Mills on Suffolk Street and expanded to the 110 Canal building in the Hamilton Canal District in 2015. It has launched four companies, including Anterios, which was bought for $90 million in June by the giant Allergan.

M2D2 already has sponsorships from several others in the industry, including American Instrument Exchange, Becton Dickinson and Boston Scientific.

The head of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, a state agency and major supporter of incubators in the state, lauded M2D2 for the partnership with Johnson & Johnson.

"This partnership with J&J will further accelerate M2D2's ability to deliver exciting medical device innovations, and further cement the Merrimack Valley as a leading geography for corporate-academic collaborations in the life sciences," said Travis McCready, the agency's president and CEO, in a statement.