June 3, 2019

Massachusetts Life Sciences Center launches new Seed Fund to catalyze life sciences innovations in underserved regions

New program to provide pre-seed/seed up to-$250K convertible notes to early-stage life sciences companies in Lowell, Worcester, Springfield, Amherst, and Pittsfield

Springfield—Today, the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC) announced the launch of its new Seed Fund to catalyze life sciences development and innovations in under-served regions. Through this program, the MLSC and its partners aim to leverage and increase the visibility of regional strengths across the Commonwealth by highlighting opportunities in innovative technologies and individual regional resources. Individual investments will be up to $250,000 in convertible notes with up to $1 million of capital investment available to support life sciences companies in Lowell, Worcester, Springfield, Amherst, and Pittsfield.

“With this new initiative, we aim to build upon the success already taking place across these keys regions in the Commonwealth,” said MLSC President & CEO Travis McCready. “Through this Seed Fund, in concert with our full portfolio of programs and partner institutions, we can connect, educate, and serve as a convener by promoting regional strengths in addition to identifying gaps, to serve as a matchmaker to business expertise, diverse talent, and valuable infrastructure.”

The Seed Fund will support the development of innovative, promising life sciences start-ups in targeted geographies across Massachusetts. With an initial focus on Lowell, Worcester, Springfield, Amherst, and Pittsfield, the MLSC hopes to expand the program to other regions in future years. A key measure of success for this program will be creating targeted opportunities for other investors to follow the MLSC’s investment lead and exponentially increase the amount of risk capital invested in these regions.

“The Baker-Polito Administration is committed to nourishing Massachusetts’ nation-leading innovation economy, and this Seed Fund is an important tool to help grow the life sciences footprint regionally,” said Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy. “We are excited to watch as this program unlocks life sciences opportunities, innovative discoveries, and high-quality jobs in Lowell, Worcester, Springfield, Amherst, and Pittsfield.”

On a rolling basis, companies will be able to apply for up to $250,000 in convertible notes to support novel innovations in all life sciences sectors, including Diagnostics, Digital Health/Bioinformatics, Medical Devices, MedTech, and Therapeutics. Early-stage life science companies that have yet to raise their first priced round are strongly encouraged to apply for this program.

The MLSC will also serve as a convener to build upon existing collaborative efforts in these regions and pursue new opportunities for increasing regional capacity for growth in the life sciences. Many regions in Massachusetts are already home to a verdant presence of major research universities, medical centers, and incubators. This environment of anchor institutions needs to be matched with opportunities for early-stage funding that is currently more concentrated within the Greater Boston area. The new seed fund program seeks to catalyze investments in life sciences companies by fostering the development of innovative technologies spun out of the world-class research institutions in Lowell, Worcester, Springfield, Amherst, and Pittsfield, and coalescing resources from across the Commonwealth.

Also taking place today, President McCready joined State Representative Joseph Wagner, who serves as Assistant Majority Leader in the Massachusetts House of Representatives and State Senator Eric Lesser, who serves as the Senate Co-Chair of the Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies, for a tour of Valley Venture Mentors (VVM) in Springfield. Founded in 2011, VVM provides education and support to new businesses through mentoring and accelerator programs. The visit served as an opportunity for VVM and state officials to discuss VVM’s role in supporting startups in the region and how the new Seed Fund will help build upon those efforts.

“At VVM, we work with startups from all industries and recognize the critical role that seed funding plays in the success of high potential ventures,” said VVM CEO Kristin Leutz. “For this reason, we are very excited about Mass Life Science Center’s new Seed Fund. The life sciences in particular are strong in Western MA with many world class learning institutions here in the region that create opportunities to bring scientists’ brilliant work into practical application in business. We are proud for the part that we can play in helping support the life sciences in entrepreneurship.”

“The Massachusetts Life Sciences Center has been a leader in support of economic development, scientific innovation and job creation in the Commonwealth,” said Wagner. “I applaud the Center’s continued efforts to further cultivate the life sciences industry, particularly here in Western Massachusetts.”

“This is exciting news for Western Mass, and for the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center which continues to be a leading national model for innovation and job growth in the life sciences sector. This new seed money will support locally-owned healthcare startups based right here in Western Mass, helping them expand their businesses and hire more workers. This grant also helps us make good on our commitment to spread the growth we have seen in this sector beyond just Boston, bringing jobs in this dynamic industry to every corner of our state,” said Sen. Eric P. Lesser, who helped author the 2018 Mass Life Sciences Center investment bill as Co-Chair of the Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies.

“I expect early-stage companies in Pittsfield, the Berkshires and throughout western Mass. will greatly benefit from this program,” said State Senator Adam G. Hinds (D- Pittsfield).  “I greatly appreciate the Life Sciences Center’s continued attention, support and investment in life sciences development and innovations in all regions of the Commonwealth, especially the four western Counties.”

“As we get ready to open the doors of the Berkshire Innovation Center, the Seed Fund program is coming at a perfect time for Pittsfield and Berkshire County,” said State Representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier. “It’s yet another tool in our collective toolbox helping our own Berkshire businesses grow, hire and succeed right here.”

“Early stage startup companies are critical to innovation,” said Jon Weaver, who serves as President and CEO of Massachusetts Biomedical Initiatives (MBI) in Worcester, MA. “The MLSC’s new initiative will provide essential ‘seed’ funding to these early stage companies to promote innovation in our Gateway Cities, create jobs, and improve the lives of patients throughout the Commonwealth.”

“All of us at M2D2 are thrilled to hear the news about the Mass Life Sciences Seed Fund,” said Mary Ann Picard, Director of Operations at the Massachusetts Medical Device Development Center (M2D2) in Lowell, MA. “This a boon for Lowell and for our emerging medical device and biotech startup resident companies. We look forward to working with the Mass Life Sciences Center on this important and exciting endeavor.”

The MLSC applied and received a $300,000 federal grant by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship for the launch, scale, and formation of this cluster-focused seed fund. As a requirement of this grant, the $300,000 in federal funding must be matched with additional funding. The MLSC’s Board of Directors has authorized the matching $300,000 in funding from the Center’s Investment Fund. The Seed Fund will be administered in tandem with Massachusetts Transfer Technology Center (MTTC). Since 2004, the MTTC has supported technology transfer activities from public and private research institutions to companies in Massachusetts.

“Massachusetts leads the nation in translating academic research to the market and the MLSC Seed Fund will fill a key need to enable academic spin-offs to bridge to private capital”, stated Vinit Nijhawan, Interim Executive Director, MTTC.

By investing in potentially high growth life sciences companies and addressing gaps within these ecosystems, the state is poised to cultivate new businesses and promote job creation. Interested companies can learn more about the application and awards process here.

About the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center

The Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC) is an economic development investment agency dedicated to supporting the growth and development of the life sciences in Massachusetts, home to the most verdant and productive life sciences ecosystem in the world.  Through public-private funding initiatives, the MLSC supports innovation, education, research and development, commercialization, and manufacturing activities in the fields of biopharma, medical device, diagnostics and digital health.  Since its creation in 2007, the MLSC has strategically deployed over $700 million in Massachusetts, through a combination of grants, loans, capital infrastructure investments, tax incentives and workforce programs.  These investments have created thousands of jobs and propelled the development of new therapies, devices and scientific advancements that are improving patient health and well-being in Massachusetts and beyond.