Life Sciences in Massachusetts – A Governor and Investor’s Perspective

On July 16, 2016, a group of 85 senior physician executives from the Boston area biotech and pharmaceutical industry gathered at Alnylam Pharmaceuticals in Cambridge to hear Deval Patrick, former Governor of Massachusetts and Managing Director of Bain Capital, discuss his perspectives on the Life Sciences industry sector in Massachusetts. The event was moderated by Matthew Sherman, CMO of Acceleron Pharma and hosted by Akshay Vaishnaw, EVP R&D & CMO of Alnylam.

Deval Patrick

deval-patrickGovernor Patrick began by discussing the changed circumstances he encountered shortly after he took office in January, 2007. Within a year, the country and the world were experiencing the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

His administration focused on three key initiatives in response:

  • 1. Investing in Education – Education is the calling card for Massachusetts throughout the world. The Governor noted that there are 300 universities, research institutions and teaching hospitals within a 45 minute drive from Cambridge, MA.
  • 2. Encouraging collaboration and Innovation – Biotech, Information Technology and Clean Technology (and increasingly precision manufacturing) are all industries that are highly dependent on the kind of brain power Massachusetts produces
  • 3. Investing in infrastructure – In addition to roads and railways, infrastructure investments included the Massachusetts Life Sciences Initiative, leading to the creation of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MSLC), an investment agency that supports life sciences innovation, research, development and commercialization.


The Massachusetts Life Sciences Initiative represented a 10-year, $1 billion investment to enhance and strengthen the state’s leadership in the life sciences. The goal was to make the Commonwealth’s life sciences super cluster the most successful in the world. By 2013, the Commonwealth’s life sciences super cluster had risen to number one in the nation in terms of per capita employment, with close to 14,300 jobs for every one million residents, (see Boston Foundation Report).

The Governor emphasized that the MSLC’s role was not to substitute for private sector investment and federal research investment, but to supplement that investment, fill gaps and focus efforts on long term planning.

The key goals of the initiative included:

  • – funding translational research that converts new discoveries into marketable products and services
  • – investing in promising new technologies through the “valley of death”
  • – ensuring worker skill acquisition that aligns with the needs of life sciences industries
  • – creating new infrastructure with shared resources to accelerate life sciences innovation
  • – building partnerships among segments of the local and international life sciences communities


An important part of the MSLC’s mission was and continues to be to “tell the story” of the Massachusetts super cluster and to foster collaboration and communication among the region’s teaching institutions, medical centers entrepreneurs, industry leaders, venture capitalists and government officials who are all dedicated to the success of this sector.

During a lively Q&A Session, Governor Patrick addressed some additional topics:

Q: What would success in the Massachusetts Life Sciences sector look like in 10 years?

The Governor remarked that Massachusetts has become a global translational medicine hub, moving new therapies from “bench to bedside”.  An important goal for both human health and life sciences businesses is to continue this leadership as medicine becomes more personalized.

Our country is challenged to continue funding basic research at the federal level. The life sciences industry needs to continue to make the case for this investment. It also needs to collaborate with government and universities to identify new ways of funding this research.

It is important for the industry to emphasize that the life sciences sector creates employment opportunity in support and services companies and in manufacturing. The jobs created go well beyond PhD’s, MD’s and highly educated specialists.

Q: How should the life sciences industry tell its story in order to better articulate its value?

The Governor noted that the industry needs to find a way to explain the price disparities between different countries. It is important for the industry to continue to emphasize its role in relieving human suffering.

While the development and growth of the life sciences sector in Kendall Square has been tremendous, the Massachusetts super cluster needs to expand west and up and down the red line. We have a tremendous resource in the UMass Medical School, for example.

It is important to continue to emphasize collaboration and communication. One of the things that surprised him early in his tenure was that our teaching institutions were unaccustomed to collaborating with each other. This has changed with a number of shared initiatives and needs to continue.

In response to audience questions about current events, the Governor shared some of his personal perspectives. He reminded the audience that business voices need to be heard on topics such as tolerance and immigration.

About the Boston CMO Network

The Boston CMO Network includes senior physician executives in the greater Boston area who are active in the biotech and pharmaceutical industry. The Network sponsors events for Boston-area physician executives to meet, interact and learn from each other.

A Steering Committee of physicians plans the group’s events:

Akshay Vaishnaw, M.D., Ph.D. (Chair) EVP & CMO, Alnylam Pharmaceuticals
Julie Krop, M.D. CMO, Amag Pharmaceuticals
Alfred Sandrock, Jr., M.D., Ph.D. SVP, Development Sciences & CMO, Biogen Idec
Matt Sherman, M.D. CMO, Acceleron Pharma
Nancy Simonian, M.D. CEO, Syros Pharmaceuticals
Gloria Vigliani, M.D. Principal at Vigliani Consulting
Chris Wright, M.D., Ph.D. CMO, Axcella Health
Steven Rauscher (Organization) BioPharm Physicians
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