Efforts that began a decade ago are finally taking shape in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts.
The new Berkshire Innovation Center (BIC) is set to open in October and will provide advanced capabilities to manufacturers in the region, primarily to small- and medium-sized life science companies, the local supply chain, advanced manufacturing and technology. The 20,000-sq.-ft. (1,858-sq.-m.) facility will include training facilities, biotech wet lab space, clean rooms, office and event space.
Once construction is complete in late 2019 or early 2020, the new $13.7 million center will deliver shared access to cutting-edge research and development, prototyping equipment, customized training programs, student internship programs and collaborative opportunities with the BIC’s research and education partners.
“I am pleased to see this long-awaited project get underway,” said Representative Paul W. Mark. “Upon completion, the state-of-the-art BIC will display the economic and technological ingenuity of our region, which is incredibly important as our legislative delegation continues to search for ways to reduce the economic isolation we often face in the Berkshires.”
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker committed nearly $12.5 million toward the project through a $12 million allocation from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC) and $450,000 from MassDevelopment. This funding leverages an additional $1 million from the City of Pittsfield and $300,000 from the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority. MLSC is an economic development group that supports innovation, research & development, commercialization and manufacturing activities in the fields of biopharma, medical device manufacturing, diagnostics and digital health.
Nearly 5,000 jobs in Berkshire Country are in the manufacturing sector, making it the fifth largest industry in the region. Manufacturing represents a key industry base in Berkshire County and is composed mainly of small and mid-sized enterprises (SMEs).
The Berkshires are just one of the many parts of the state where the industry is growing but is certainly not the only region attracting investment.
Christopher Gilrein, director of business development of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, explains that while life science companies tend to cluster together, the MLSC is working to fill in the gaps by supporting local entrepreneurship in communities with strong existing infrastructure that may not have access to traditional sources of capital. In June, MLSC launched a seed fund targeted at supporting early stage companies in five areas: Lowell, Worcester, Amherst, Springfield, and Pittsfield.
“We certainly see a lot of startup activity, R&D, and global headquarters in Boston and Cambridge, but this industry is vibrant across the Commonwealth,” says Gilrein. “There’s a terrific startup community on the North Shore, and more companies moving into growing lab space in the Boston suburbs. We’re seeing new device and sensor engineering coming out of the Merrimack Valley area, and major biomanufacturing projects coming online throughout Metro West, Worcester and the southern suburbs. Central and Western Mass. also host small-and-medium sized device and component manufactures — many that are generations old — connecting with the next generation of startups in our incubators for design and prototyping work.”
Life Science Grows in Mass.
Massachusetts boasts a highly educated workforce and ranks No. 1 in the nation in percentage of residents with a bachelor’s degree or higher. Even K-12 students perform best in the nation on national assessments.
More than 95,000 people work in Massachusetts’ life sciences industry, with projections showing the number will continue growing faster than any other state. Additionally, the state ranks No. 1 in life sciences employment per capita.
“Talent is the driving force behind everything in the life sciences, so our investment in the workforce pipeline is always important,” says Gilrein. “MLSC recently announced $30 million in capital projects building out innovation infrastructure across the state supporting basic research, clinical trials, business incubation and workforce development.”
One such award will help expand Quincy College’s biotechnology and Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) program to prime the pipeline of entry-level biotech talent and provide customized training for local companies. Another award will help Northeastern University build out its mock GMP manufacturing suite for biomanufacturing and quality control training program at its Burlington campus.
Several recent investments have been made in the state’s most robust sector:
Freudenberg Medical will soon begin the construction of a new medical manufacturing facility in Beverly, Massachusetts, located north of Boston. Freudenberg Medical has manufactured medical components and devices in nearby Gloucester, Massachusetts since 1989 and plans to relocate and expand the operation. Freudenberg also has decided to establish its global headquarters in the new facility in Beverly.
“The Boston area is one of the leading medical device and biotech clusters in the world with a high concentration of universities and research centers,” said Max Kley, president and CEO of Freudenberg Medical. “Our decision to expand here is a testament to the strong growth of Freudenberg Medical in this region, and locating our global headquarters in Beverly demonstrates the global role and international orientation of the Boston med device cluster.”
Freudenberg Medical will invest more than $3 million in a 36,000-sq.-ft. (3,344-sq.-m.) operation with opportunity to expand an additional 20,000 sq. ft. (1,858 sq. m.). The new operation will be FDA-registered and ISO 13485 certified with ISO Class 8 cleanrooms for medical molding and assembly. The plan is to be operational in the second half of 2019 and employ an estimated 70 people.
In May, Insulet Corporation officially opened its new global headquarters and U.S. manufacturing facility in Acton. Insulet is an innovative medical device company that makes diabetes management products. The company’s Omnipod Insulin Management System provides a unique alternative to traditional insulin delivery methods with a simple, wearable, disposable pod that provides three days of insulin delivery without forcing patients to use a needle.
Insulet invested more than $200 million in the facility. The new 26-acre (10.5-hectare) site gives the manufacturer closer proximity to its large and growing customer base.
“We are honored to call Massachusetts our home and are truly grateful for the strong partnership with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and town of Acton. They have been tremendous supporters of this monumental milestone for Insulet,” said Shacey Petrovic, president and CEO of Insulet. “Our new global headquarters and U.S. manufacturing facility is a launchpad for continued growth and exciting innovation and we’re proud to be contributing to the economy by creating hundreds of local jobs.”
German biopharmaceutical giant Merck KGaA — which operates its biopharmaceutical business as EMD Serano in the U.S. and Canada — is investing $70 million to expand its R&D facility in Billerica. The 145,000-sq.-ft. (13,470-sq.-m.) building will be completed in 2021 and will accommodate approximately 400 new and current R&D employees focused on oncology, immune-oncology and immunology.
“Our talented and passionate R&D teams based in Billerica have been highly engaged in advancing a number of pipeline compounds,” said Luciano Rossetti, head of Global R&D at the Biopharma business of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany. “We continue to strengthen our innovation footprint in both the U.S. and Darmasdt, Germany, where our global R&D headquarters are located, with the goal of delivering transformational value to patients around the world.”