News: Press Releases

October 17, 2013

Joined by House Speaker DeLeo, President Caret ends statewide bus tour with call to strengthen University's ties to biopharmaceutical industry

  • The UMass System

UMass President Robert L. Caret met today with leaders of the biopharmaceutical industry, saying it was critical for the University of Massachusetts to strengthen its ties to the industry to advance research and generate economic development in the Commonwealth. The visit was the final stop on President Caret's three-day statewide bus tour to highlight the impact of the state's public research university and to make the case for greater public and private support. He was joined on the final stop by House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo.

``The University of Massachusetts is singularly positioned to help the Commonwealth realize the potential created by continued investment in the biopharmaceutical industry,'' President Caret said. ``It is also crucial that the University continues to strengthen its engagement with private industry and build stronger, more enduring partnerships that promote areas of strategic economic importance to the Commonwealth and to the nation. Speaker DeLeo has been a friend of UMass in these efforts and we applaud him for being such a strong advocate for growing the innovation economy in Massachusetts.''

Speaker DeLeo, who last year backed an economic development bill to create a $50 million ``Innovation Investment Fund'' to support research and development at UMass and other universities and research centers said: ``UMass plays a vital role in attracting and retaining employers. Today we must actively pursue new ways to create jobs in existing and emerging industries. We've included multiple provisions to do just that in recent legislation, such as the economic development law.''

He added: ``The commitment of President Caret and the eagerness of companies like Vertex Pharmaceuticals to partner with UMass sends a powerful message to researchers, innovators and companies across the country and the world that Massachusetts is a hub for innovation.''

President Caret met with about a half dozen pharmaceutical-industry executives in a roundtable discussion at the new South Boston offices of Vertex Pharmaceuticals. Vertex is a Cambridge-based biotechnology company that is in the process of building its new headquarters in Boston's Innovation District in South Boston. Founded in 1989 with an investment of $6 million, Vertex has grown into a company with more than $1 billion in annual revenue.

Last week, Vertex announced a new four-year, need-and merit-based scholarship program to assist Boston high school students pursuing higher education at the University of Massachusetts in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), beginning with the 2014-2015 academic year.

Today's roundtable discussion was hosted by leaders from Vertex and the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council and included UMass Board of Trustees Chairman Henry M. Thomas, Trustee Alyce Lee, and UMass officials from the Medical School, the Amherst campus and the economic development office.

President Caret said it was important that UMass escalate the dialogue it has been having with industry leaders and get input and feedback on potential next steps in building stronger partnerships with the pharmaceutical industry, especially in the area of drug discovery, development and delivery. ``These partnerships are critical to broaden the pipeline of STEM-capable students,'' he said.

 `` The next step is to expand those already strong partnerships into other areas.''.

UMass Board of Trustees Chairman Thomas said:  ``I hope we can work together to continue to grow and expand these types of partnerships, which do so much for our students, the economy and the millions of people around the world who benefit from these advances in research and medicine.''

Robert K. Coughlin, president and CEO of the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, which co-sponsored the roundtable, said that Massachusetts already has the best industry-government-university biotechnology-sector collaboration in the nation, but noted that such ties "can always get better."

The roundtable discussion was the final event of the third statewide bus tour of President Caret's two-and-a-half year-old presidency. This year's tour was titled `` Commonwealth Tour 2013: Commitment, Quality, Impact." It got underway Tuesday morning in Springfield, and included stops in Hadley, Lowell, Fall River, New Bedford, Hingham, Boston and Milford. During the course of the tour, President Caret, who was accompanied by Chairman Thomas, met with business leaders, public higher education partners, representatives from key and emerging industries, a delegation of mayors, successful alumni and others. Along the way, they were joined by the Chancellors of the Amherst, Boston, Dartmouth, Lowell and Medical School campuses.

Contact: Ann Scales, 617-287-4084; Robert P. Connolly, 617-287-7073