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Biogen donates $10 million for Cambridge, Somerville STEM programs

“Inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers is a critical endeavor for our industry and for society as a whole,” Biogen chief executive Michel Vounatsos said.
“Inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers is a critical endeavor for our industry and for society as a whole,” Biogen chief executive Michel Vounatsos said.Dina Rudick/Globe Staff/Boston Globe

Another major Massachusetts biotech is donating millions of dollars to help improve STEM education in public schools.

Three months after Boston’s Vertex Pharmaceuticals pledged at least $50 million over 10 years to schools in Boston, San Diego, and the United Kingdom, a foundation affiliated with Cambridge-based Biogen Inc. is donating $10 million over four years to support science, technology, engineering, and math programs in Cambridge and Somerville public schools.

The Biogen Foundation will soon solicit proposals from nonprofit groups seeking to set up programs, in or outside of schools, for students in grades six through 12. Biogen is the largest Massachusetts-based biotech, with more than 2,400 employees as of last year, according to a recent report by the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council.

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The availability of tech labor and an educated workforce has become a critical concern in many US cities and figured prominently into recent bids by Boston and other parts of the state to be finalists to host a second headquarters for the Internet giant Amazon.

“Inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers is a critical endeavor for our industry and for society as a whole,” Biogen chief executive Michel Vounatsos said Thursday.

The mayors of Cambridge and Somerville praised the Biogen Foundation’s donation. Somerville Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone said it “signals a clear commitment to equitable access and opportunity in STEM education for underrepresented students that can change the trajectory of their lives.”

Massachusetts Education Secretary James A. Peyser said, “We are very pleased that middle school and high school students in Cambridge and Somerville will benefit from the hands-on learning experiences and skill-building that develop from these partnerships.”

The Biogen Foundation was established in 2002 and has contributed about $50 million to nonprofit educational and social service programs since then, from the Greater Boston Food Bank to uAspire.

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Jonathan Saltzman can be reached at jsaltzman@globe.com.