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President Caret touts UMass role in central Massachusetts economy

The University of Massachusetts Medical School is a major factor in the economy of central Massachusetts, creating jobs, attracting industries, and developing a highly skilled workforce in the crucial areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, also known as STEM, UMass President Robert L. Caret said today.

In remarks to ``The Breakfast Club," a popular Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce event, President Caret said National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded academic medical centers like UMass are in the vanguard of creating new products with world-changing promise and said the Medical School has been a major impetus for the presence and growth of the biomedical sector in central Massachusetts.

He cited international pharmaceutical giant Abbott Laboratories' decision to locate its biologics research, development and manufacturing facility directly across the street from the Medical School in the Biotech Research Park in Worcester, because of its proximity to the University. Abbott now employs 700 people at that location. He also said numerous companies have spun off NIH-funded research at the Medical School, including Biomedical Research Models, Inc., a Worcester company that develops and uses animal models for drug development and employs more than 50 people.

The Medical School itself and its clinical partner, UMass Memorial Health Care, employ more than 20,000 people, with the medical school alone accounting for 6,800 employees, President Caret said. Meanwhile, the medical school spent $81 million a year on goods and services in the city of Worcester and $113 million in Worcester County, in fiscal year 2009.

``Our public mission obligates UMass to serve the Commonwealth in meaningful ways, and among those ways are through economic development and workforce development in key disciplines, such as STEM , in partnership with the local community,'' President Caret said. ``Having grown up in a gateway city myself - Biddeford, Maine - I know that the best way for cities like Worcester to achieve a bright future is to have strong and vital colleges and universities dedicating their resources and expertise to helping solve challenges the community faces,'' he said.

The Chamber of Commerce breakfast was the most recent in a series of meetings with key civic and business leaders that President Caret has embarked on since he set out to meet with them last October during a four day, 400-mile bus tour across the Commonwealth. President Caret, who assumed his position in July, is on a mission to increase public support for UMass and demonstrate the University's vital role in helping to create the jobs and the skilled workforce needed in the innovation economy.

In his Worcester speech, President Caret said UMass was committed to growth and expansion in central Massachusetts, as evident by the construction of the Medical School's Sherman Center, a $400 million project that will focus on research and commercialization of new therapeutic products. The 480,000-square feet complex will double the Medical School's research capacity and house such programs as regenerative medicine and gene therapy. It is funded in part by Governor Deval Patrick's Life Sciences Initiative.

But the University's partnerships in the region extend beyond job creation, President Caret said. They include building on its already strong relationships with Worcester Public Schools to provide STEM-oriented training to K-12 students, and working in partnership with local public health officials to protect the residents of Worcester and the region.

Contact: Ann Scales, 617-287-4084


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Robert P. Connolly
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