N.Y. gains on Boston in biotech battle

Massachusetts has added more than 4,000 life sciences jobs since Gov. Deval Patrick announced his billion-dollar initiative in 2007 — the last time Boston hosted the international BIO convention — but many say the state’s investment, $302 million so far, hasn’t generated a big enough return, and competition from other regions, especially New York, is heating up.

New York’s biotech cluster receives $1.4 billion in National Institutes of Health funding, second only to Boston, said Kristy Syndjaja, who heads the New York City Industry Transformation Department. the city is hosting a November conference featuring top Hub life science CEOs and venture capitalists.

The Big Apple is already home to the Alexandria Center for Life Science, the New York Genome Center, nine academic medical centers and 75 percent more medical students, Syndjaja said. while Boston is looking to expand its life sciences super-cluster and attract more overseas companies, New York wants to do the same as well as poach from the Hub.

“We’re definitely a very competitive region here,” Syndjaja told the Herald. “the city continues to work with academic centers and commercial companies to identify areas where we can help. We definitely see ourselves as one of the leaders in this country. ”

And New York isn’t the Bay State’s only competitor. California has a $3 billion initiative focused on stem cell research, and North Carolina has invested more than $1.2 billion in life sciences over the past decade.

Patrick said the Bay State’s billion-dollar investment has been crucial, but critics, such as Beacon Hill Institute executive director David Tuerck, argue that the life sciences initiative hasn’t shown sufficient results.

Tuerck called the 8,751 total jobs created so far — half of them temporary construction jobs — a “negligible accomplishment,” adding that those jobs might have been created had the money been spent elsewhere.

“Tax breaks for businesses in general tend to be more subsidies for businesses, often to do things they would do anyway, which is a less effective use of economic development resources than those things that focus on making Massachusetts a more attractive place to work, such as improving the quality of education and workforce training,” said Noah Berger, president of the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center.

But Patrick defended his initiative last week, saying it has secured and expanded the state’s position as a “worldwide destination” for the life sciences.

“One of the reasons why we’re getting nation-leading job creation here in the midst of the worst economy in living memory is because we’re investing in those innovation centers that are thriving: life sciences and biotechnology,” he said. “We’re trying to do something here different from what typically happens in government and, frankly, what typically happens in business, which is to invest for the long term, to make the kind of decisions now that are going to make a difference in a generation.”

N.Y. gains on Boston in biotech battle


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