Massachusetts Life Sciences Center Announces First Round of Equipment and Supply Matching Grants  
2/23/2011 1:59:03 PM

Waltham, Massachusetts – The Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, a quasi-public agency tasked with implementing the state’s ten-year, $1 billion Life Sciences Initiative, today announced the agency’s first round of grants through its new Equipment and Supplies Program for Skills Training and Education, which provides funding for the purchase of equipment at vocational technical schools, community colleges and workforce training organizations in Massachusetts. The program, which was formally announced by Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray at a statewide STEM Summit on September 28th and accepted applications from October 2010 to January 2011, will provide grants totaling more than $3.4 million to 32 vocational technical schools, community colleges and workforce training organizations to support STEM education across the state.

Awardees are located across the Commonwealth and provide a breadth of training ranging from general STEM education curricula to biotechnology. Programs that will receive funding include programs newly developed to enhance STEM education as well as programs with decades of experience. The student population that will benefit from these equipment grants represents a diverse workforce, including workers seeking re-training and low-income individuals preparing for entry-level positions.

This grant program seeks to further the development of the state’s life sciences workforce by providing funding of up to $250,000 per institution for life sciences equipment and supplies. To be eligible for an award of greater than $100,000, applicants must have secured matching funds or in-kind donations from an industry partner that supports the training program for which the equipment and supplies are needed. Nine of the 32 awardees have secured sponsors from large and small companies and institutions across the state: Dick Burnham Technical Sales, Merck, Microtest, Nuclea Biotechnologies, Pall Corporation, Vertex, Mass General Hospital, Bristol- Myers Squibb and MassBIO members. The combined value of their sponsorship totals $640,102.

“Massachusetts is not only a global leader in the life sciences, but also in education, and the Commonwealth’s success on both fronts is no coincidence,” said Governor Deval Patrick. “Initiatives like the Equipment and Supplies Program for Skills Training and Education provide the tools that our workforce needs to prepare for the new jobs we are creating in our innovation economy.”

“The Commonwealth’s focus on STEM education continues to strengthen both our education system and the life sciences industry in regions across the state,” said Lieutenant Governor Timothy P. Murray, whom the Governor tasked with chairing the STEM Advisory Council. “Through this new Life Sciences Center program, we will provide schools and the business community with significant tools that will support our future workforce by preparing students today for careers in the many growing, innovative sectors.”

“Leaders in the life sciences industry always tell me that they need skilled workers, such as lab technicians and individuals who have had hands-on training in biomanufacturing,” said Dr. Susan Windham-Bannister, President and CEO of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center. “This is where the Center can make a difference – our Equipment and Supplies Program for Skills Training and Education stimulates the creation of partnerships between industry and educational organizations to truly provide the Commonwealth’s students and displaced workers with hands- on training in the use of modern equipment. We are especially proud that we could help so many worthy programs across the state.”

Banafsheh Salamat, the head of the Science Department at Lynn Vocational Technical Institute (LVTI), plans to use the equipment award to create a new biotechnology course. “This program will bring technology to low-income teenagers, engage students from underrepresented populations and impact their job opportunities in the near future.” Vertex Pharmaceuticals is the industry sponsor for LVTI, generously providing surplus equipment valued at $102,000 and pledging ongoing advisory support.

"Vertex is a strong supporter of science education, and we are excited to support the Lynn Vocational Technical Institute in the development of their new biotechnology program. By providing the school with much-needed supplies and equipment, we not only give them access to key technologies and resources, but we are also enabling them to secure additional funding from the Center,” said Peter Mueller, Ph.D., Executive Vice President, Global Research and Development and Chief Scientific Officer for Vertex.

“We are very pleased to receive this award for the expanded training opportunities it will provide to our biotechnology students,” said Mount Wachusett Community College President Daniel M. Asquino. “Our relationship with industry, and specifically with our sponsor Bristol-Myers Squibb, has helped us identify unmet training needs that are best addressed with technology currently in use by industry. Thanks to the support of the Commonwealth, through the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center Grant we will be able to provide advanced cell culture, microbial analysis, cleaning validation, and process analysis training previously not available.”

At Westfield Vocational Technical High School, the Manufacturing Technology Department is excited to expand its precision manufacturing curriculum to include training for biomanufacturing. Clement Fucci, the Department Head, expressed the school’s enthusiasm for the opportunity presented by the grant. “This grant will allow us to expose our manufacturing technology students to the tools needed to manufacture biomedical components." “This funding is critical for us to continue to provide a training bridge for low-income adults from racially and culturally diverse backgrounds to be prepared for entry-level jobs in the biotechnology industry,” said Gordon N. Gottsche, Executive Director of Just-A-Start in Cambridge, a workforce training program that partners with Bunker Hill Community College and the City of Cambridge.