On first blush, the BioPharm America™ 2014 panel discussion title of “All innovation roads lead to Massachusetts: Pharma’s approach to the Boston biotech cluster” seemed a bit over the top. But after listening to the panel, this notion did not seem so far fetched—at least when it comes to biotechnology. The biotech sector in Massachusetts employs 50,000 people, and is has grown robustly —42% over the past ten years—contributing tax revenues that surely have 49 other states green with envy.
To take advantage of this critical mass (no pun intended) of talent, large pharma such as Johnson & Johnson, BMS, Merck, and Pfizer have opened centers devoted to engaging this community. And it seems to be working as intended, at least for J&J, who has made 65 investments over the last 18 months. J&J’s Innovation head, Robert Urban, described his perch as bearing witness to “breathtaking moments in science,” and deploying capital and infrastructure to turn such moments into businesses. The opportunity to achieve this is aided by pioneering “plug and play” incubator labs, such as LabCentral.
The panel featured moderator Johannes Fruehauf, Founder and President, LabCentral; CEO, Cambridge BioLabs, with discussion from panelists Kumar Srinivasan, VP, Scientific Partnering and Alliances, AstraZeneca; Benjamin Thorner, Associate VP, Head of Business Development and Licensing, Boston Innovation Hub, Merck Research Laboratories; Robert Urban, Head, Johnson & Johnson Innovation LLC, Boston; and Leigh Zawel, Site Head, Boston Center for Therapeutic Innovation (CTI), Pfizer BioTherapeutics R&D.
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