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Baker funds $63.6m for life sciences capital projects

Governor Charlie Baker.
Governor Charlie Baker.JOSH REYNOLDS FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE

Baker administration officials have made good on a commitment to the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, putting $63.6 million in a capital plan for the coming year to fund training, research programs, and incubators for early-stage biotech and medical technology companies.

The outlay for fiscal 2017, which begins July 1, represents a 15 percent increase over expected capital spending for life sciences programs in the current fiscal year. It also puts to rest concern by some in the industry that the administration was slow to embrace as a priority the state’s life sciences initiative launched by Governor Charlie Baker’s predecessor, Deval Patrick.

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“We are committed to the continued growth and support for our life sciences ecosystem and the infrastructure necessary to support innovation, workforce training, job creation and economic growth,” Baker said in a statement. “We look forward to the launch of this year’s Massachusetts Life Sciences Center capital programs, and the increased activity and growth to come.”

The center said Friday that it will begin formally soliciting proposals for capital projects on May 27. On May 31, it will start soliciting proposals for equipment and supplies at high schools and middle schools to train students in the life sciences, part of the center’s mission.

Much of this year’s capital appropriation will fund multi-year projects already approved, such as research centers at University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Capital spending represents roughly half of the $1 billion approved by the Legislature in 2008 for the 10-year life sciences initiative. Specific outlays must be appropriated annually by the governor as part of a capital plan that is approved separately from the state budget.

The remainder of the life sciences initiative consists of tax incentives, which the center can award to companies promising to create jobs in the state, and an investment fund that is part of the state budget to provide loans and grants to startups, bankroll internships at life sciences companies, and fund the administration of the Waltham-based life sciences center.

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Some biopharma industry leaders bristled when Baker and his lieutenants, shortly after taking office, considered a plan to merge the life sciences center and other agencies into a central economic development authority. Even after that idea was abandoned, there were complaints that the administration was dragging its feet on approving funds for capital projects.

Harvey Lodish resigned as chairman of the center’s scientific advisory board in February, questioning the Baker administration’s commitment to the agency. Among his complaints was the administration’s failure to replenish the capital projects fund in time to give the panel an opportunity to review proposals. Lodish has still not been replaced.


Robert Weisman can be reached at robert.weisman@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeRobW.