Life Sciences Center’s MassNextGen Initiative expands to support broader pool of underrepresented entrepreneurs
Today, Governor Maura Healey and Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll joined Economic Development Secretary Yvonne Hao, Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC) President and CEO Kenn Turner, and President of Takeda’s U.S. Business Unit and U.S. Country Head Julie Kim, to formally launch the expansion of the Massachusetts Next Generation (MassNextGen) Initiative, a public-private partnership to support underrepresented entrepreneurs in the Massachusetts life sciences ecosystem.
“MassNextGen is an important tool to make sure that Massachusetts remains a global leader in the life sciences while also breaking down barriers to entry and opening the industry to those who have been historically left out. We are excited to be expanding the program to support more women entrepreneurs as well as people of color, the LGBTQ+ community, individuals with disabilities, veterans and others,” said Governor Healey. “In Massachusetts, we know that our greatest resource is our people, and through the collaboration of public-private partnerships, we will harness our full potential and drive equitable growth in the innovation economy.”
“This expansion of MassNextGen will further diversify and strengthen the Massachusetts’ life sciences ecosystem,” said Lieutenant Governor Driscoll. “Entrepreneurs of all backgrounds deserve full access to our robust life sciences sector, and our economy will be stronger because of it. We will continue to do all we can to support diverse founders looking to advance innovative therapies and products for patients around the world.”
The launch event was hosted by Takeda, who has signed on as the Anchor Platinum Sponsor of the expanded MassNextGen initiative. The new iteration of MassNextGen will increase funding to $100,000 per awardee, double the cohort size to 10 entrepreneurs, and expand entrepreneurs’ access and network to raise further funding by providing year-round networking sessions with the venture capital community. The MLSC and its sponsors will also hold a “pitch” event for awardees to highlight their company to sponsors, awardees, and representatives of venture capital firms.
“Our industry plays an important role in transforming people’s lives, but to truly make a lasting impact, we must create equitable opportunities for entrepreneurs working in the earliest stages of innovative science,” said Julie Kim, President of Takeda’s U.S. Business Unit and U.S. Country Head. “Takeda is proud of our long-term commitment to this extraordinary program, and we are thrilled that its expansion will help women and entrepreneurs from other underrepresented communities expand their networks, increase visibility and help direct investment into their ventures.”
MassNextGen industry sponsors also include Bristol Myers Squibb, Johnson & Johnson Innovation, Mintz, Berkshire Innovation Center, North Shore InnoVentures, Massachusetts Biomedical Initiatives, M2D2, and Mansfield Bio-Incubator. The MLSC and its sponsors are launching the next five years of MassNextGen to support all entrepreneurs that identify as: Female; Black, African American, or Afro Caribbean; Hispanic, Hispanic American, or Latinx/Latin; Indigenous, Native American, or First Nation; Asian American, Pacific Islander, or Native Hawaiian; Transgender, Queer/Non Binary, Nonconforming/Agender; Living with apparent or non-apparent disability, or Neurodiverse; and Veteran and others.
“We need to do all we can to support startups and entrepreneurs all across the Commonwealth, from Boston to the Berkshires,” said Economic Development Secretary Hao, who serves as co-chair of the MLSC’s Board of Directors. “By expanding the scope of MassNextGen and growing the diversity of successful life science entrepreneurs in Massachusetts, we’re investing in the next generation of leaders taking on some of the most important science and R&D challenges of our time.”
“At the Life Sciences Center, we remain bullish that the most successful life sciences ecosystem is diverse, inclusive, and equitable for all members of this industry,” said MLSC President and CEO Kenn Turner. “Under my leadership, DE&I is a foundational piece of the Center’s Strategic Framework and at the forefront of how we leverage our programming might. MassNextGen will help ensure Massachusetts remains the global bastion for early-stage and startup activity.”
The MLSC launched the MassNextGen Initiative in 2018 as a five-year, more than $2 million commitment to ensure greater gender parity in the next generation of life science entrepreneurs. Awardees of the program received a year-long customized package of support, which included non-dilutive grant funding and access to a network of seasoned professionals from the life sciences ecosystem helping them to refine their business strategies and effectively raise capital. In addition, the program fostered an organic community of entrepreneurs where awardees could collaborate with like-minded leaders sharing experiences, ideas, and a sense of belonging.
With 26 companies in the MassNextGen portfolio, the MLSC funding combined with executive coaching and business mentorship proved to be invaluable for women entrepreneurs in building their teams and progressing forward with new opportunities. The program continues to see tremendous success from previous awardees, including 12 companies raising a seed or series A financing round and companies combined raising nearly $134 million in follow-on funding.
Statements of Support
Emma Lees, Senior Vice President, Mechanisms of Cancer Resistance Thematic Research Center for Bristol Myers Squibb in Cambridge:
“Meaningful partnerships like MassNextGen help catalyze collective action towards a common goal and we are honored to be a part of the initiative. Life sciences in Massachusetts is synonymous with innovation, and as we work towards improving patient outcomes, we must continue to prioritize empowering underrepresented groups to further enhance innovation and scientific discovery. We applaud the Healey-Driscoll Administration and Massachusetts Life Sciences Center for expanding this partnership.”
Joshua Fox, Member, Mintz:
“Partnering with the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center on its MassNextGen program makes perfect sense for us. Mintz is a leading law firm in the life sciences industry, helping biotech companies with corporate transactions, intellectual property, regulatory matters and litigation. For me personally, it’s also a great match: I work with biotech entrepreneurs and founders on a daily basis, so doing that as part of the MassNexGen program fits in very nicely with my practice. I look forward to helping the start-ups that are part of the program and in doing so, contributing to the continued growth of the broader Massachusetts life sciences community.”
Jon Weaver, President and CEO of MBI, the longest-running life sciences incubator in the Commonwealth based in Worcester and a funder of the MassNexGen program:
“Lifesaving technologies start with a Founder and an idea. MLSC’s MassNextGen program empowers a new, diverse group of Founders and prepares them for the challenging road between products and patients. We’re proud to support this program and these talented entrepreneurs.”
Mary Ann Picard, Executive Director for Innovation & New Ventures at M2D2:
“Startups are the heart of M2D2’s life sciences ecosystem, both at UMass Lowell and UMass Chan Medical School. M2D2 is proud to partner with the Life Sciences Center to support our entrepreneurial community. Diversity is at the core of our mission, both as a program and as an institution, and investing in it will only strengthen our leadership position.”
Chris Ilsley, President & CEO of North Shore InnoVentures:
“We believe that diversity drives innovation, and InnoVenture Labs is committed to promoting inclusivity in the life sciences industry. We look forward to seeing the creative solutions and breakthrough ideas that will come out of this competition and supporting the success of the next generation of life science entrepreneurs.”
Ben Sosne, Executive Director of the Berkshire Innovation Center:
“We are very proud to be part of Team Massachusetts and the Mass Life Science Center family and honored to support such a transformative program. We thank Kenn Turner for his outstanding leadership and look forward to welcoming a MassNextGen entrepreneur to Berkshire County.”
Alexander Margulis, PhD, Chief Operating Officer at Mansfield Bio-Incubator:
“We at Mansfield Bio-Incubator champion the diversity and inclusion by hosting seven women-owned and four femtech companies. By sponsoring the MassNextGen initiative, we are furthering our commitment to fostering entrepreneurship amongst women and other underrepresented populations.”