Investments mark major landmark in Governor Patrick’s commitment to Life Sciences

October 29, 2007

WORCESTER, Mass.—The Board of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC) voted October 25 to approve more than $8.2 million in funding to the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS) for the establishment of the Massachusetts Human Embryonic Stem Cell (hESC) Bank and an international Massachusetts hESC Registry and $12 million in funding for matching grants investments.

These significant awards are among the first steps in the fulfillment of the Governor’s Life Sciences Initiative, which with support from the legislature proposes to infuse $1 billion in funds over 10 years to support and expand life sciences initiatives in Massachusetts.

These actions represent a milestone in the Center’s 10-month history,” said MLSC board chairman Dan O’Connell, Secretary of Housing and Economic Development. “We are confident that this funding will create a strong foundation for the work ahead and lay the groundwork for the passage of the Life Sciences Legislation.”

The Board allocated the UMMS funds based on the strength of the proposals presented by University of Massachusetts Senior Vice President for the Health Sciences and UMMS Interim Chancellor Michael F. Collins, MD.

“We are so gratified by the Center’s confidence in the University of Massachusetts Medical School’s ability to bring both of these critical projects to fruition. With this crucial start-up funding, we look forward to establishing an hESC stem cell bank and registry that will help to solidify the Commonwealth’s position as a global leader in hESC research, thereby attracting and retaining researchers and companies interested in this burgeoning field of scientific investigation and commercial application to the Medical School and to Massachusetts,” Dr. Collins said.

The Life Science Center’s investment in the Stem Cell Registry and Bank at UMass Medical School is an important step in developing a world-class life sciences strategy for the Commonwealth that will foster scientific innovation and spur economic growth. The University of Massachusetts is the leading public academic research institution in the Commonwealth, and UMass Medical School has nationally-recognized expertise in life sciences and health sciences, including stem cell research and RNAi-related research. I applaud Chancellor Collins for leading the planning and development of the bank and registry for the University and I am confident that it will be a top-notch resource and facility for UMass and our local and global research partners,” said Jack M. Wilson, President of the University of Massachusetts and a member of the MLSC Board.

With the support of this initial $7.7 million in MLSC funding, the Massachusetts hESC Bank will be designed to serve as an international repository of human embryonic stem cells derived in Massachusetts and beyond. Through collaborative efforts of universities throughout the Commonwealth, the mission of the Massachusetts hESC Bank is to provide to researchers and commercial operations in the Commonwealth and the international biomedical research community with expertly derived and maintained hESC lines so that they may conduct essential investigations into the properties and potential therapeutic applications of those cells.

The Massachusetts hESC Registry will comprise a comprehensive and extensively documented international hESC database. Awarded more than $570,000 from the MLSC, concurrent development of the web-based registry will provide Massachusetts researchers and commercial entities, as well as the international biomedical research community, access to critical information on the provenance of, and research findings on, hESC lines. The hESC Registry will promote the efficiency of hESC research and the disbursement of hESC information.

With these funds, UMMS will immediately implement its plans to initially house the Massachusetts hESC Bank and Registry in space on its Shrewsbury campus. The two will be co-located to ensure maximum collaboration and to streamline the development of protocols, procedures and activities. The assigned space, approximately 15,000 square feet, is equipped with sufficient lab space and infrastructure to handle all of the scientific needs of the bank, as well as the necessary office and conference space for the registry. Future plans call for a dedicated facility to be constructed on the Worcester campus as the hESC Bank and Registry grow beyond their initial few years of operation.

The $12 million in matching grant investments will attract and retain the best talent, reward cooperative research, support innovative scientific research in emerging fields, improve health outcomes for the citizens of the Commonwealth, and enhance the competitiveness of Massachusetts in the global challenge for resources, markets, opportunities, and talent.

The MLSC approved three, three-year matching grant programs. New Faculty Startup grants will attract and retain nationally prominent faculty at Massachusetts’ colleges and universities by increasing the resources available for build-out of lab space and initial research activities. New Investigator grants will spur innovative research and advance the careers of new investigators working on cutting-edge research such as stem cells, genomics and RNA interference. Cooperative Research grants will increase industry-sponsored research at universities and colleges to facilitate discoveries and inventions with beneficial medical applications and significant commercial potential.

“The Administration's focus on breathing life into the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center is a welcome priority,” said Kevin Casey, Harvard’s Senior Director of Federal and State Relations. “Choosing these priorities for the first round of funding demonstrates a commitment to retaining and recruiting talented individuals that are  the creative foundation on which the life science 'supercluster' stands.”

Request for Proposals for the three grants will be released later this year with initial awards due in the early part of 2008.

The MLSC was established last year to promote research and investment in the life sciences, foster health care outcomes and support state-wide strategies while encouraging cooperation among public and private institutions.

About the University of Massachusetts Medical School
The University of Massachusetts Medical School, one of the fastest growing academic health centers in the country, has built a reputation as a world-class research institution, consistently producing noteworthy advances in clinical and basic research.  The Medical School attracts more than $176 million in research funding annually, 80 percent of which comes from federal funding sources. The work of UMMS researcher Craig Mello, PhD, an investigator of the prestigious Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), and his colleague Andrew Fire, PhD, then of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, toward the discovery of RNA interference was awarded the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, hailed as the "Breakthrough of the Year" in 2002 by Science magazine and has spawned a new and promising field of research, the global impact of which may prove astounding. UMMS is the academic partner of UMass Memorial Health Care, the largest health care provider in Central Massachusetts. For more information, visit

Contact: Mark Shelton, Public Affairs and Publications, 508-856-2000