Baker touts Mass. appeal at BIO Conference in California

Governor Charlie Baker is seen here in a WWLP file image from March 2017.

BOSTON (State House News Service) – Gov. Charlie Baker saluted innovation and investment in the health care field during his remarks at the 2017 International BIO Conference in San Diego on Wednesday, laying out his plans to invest in workforce development and foster public-private partnerships and thanking those in the medical industry for doing the work they do.

“One of things we should always remember is in the end, this is about diagnostics, therapies and cures,” Baker said. “Helping people who are dealing with terrible problems find hope and possibility.”

The Biotechnology Innovation Organization, referred to as BIO, represents more than 1,100 biotechnology companies, academic institutions, state biotechnology centers and other organizations in the U.S. and more than 30 other countries. The conference is an opportunity for anyone with a stake in the field to market themselves to more than 16,000 people from 76 countries who attend, according to the organization’s website.

Before leaving for California, Baker proposed a five-year, $500 million plan to extend a $1 billion, 10-year life sciences initiative passed under former Gov. Deval Patrick. With the initial investments winding down, Baker said it is important to look back on the life science industry’s growth every decade.

“Now, politics and public life tends to be something that goes by in a Twitter feed. But if you look at sort of the arc of inquiry and discovery, especially in biotechnology over the course of the past 20 or 30 years, every 10 years or so the game changes dramatically,” Baker said. “Because it takes place over such a long period of time and people are just paying attention to what happened today, yesterday and tomorrow. For those of you who are in this space, for those of you who play and participate in chasing therapies and cures and possibilities here, it makes an enormous difference to the folks who are living with these illness and these diseases every single day, and I just want to thank you for the work you do on that.”

Baker also said he is looking forward to hosting the 2018 BIO International Convention in Boston next June.

“Twenty-two thousand people came to BIO in Massachusetts when we last hosted it,” he said. “It’s really important to me that it be twenty-two thousand and one in 2018 so I’d really appreciate it if you all could sign up and make your bookings early so that we can exceed the goal from the last year.”

Baker said he sees great possibility for collaboration between the public and private sectors under his proposed investment plan, which will focus on workforce development to “build the pipeline” to support the the biotechnology and life sciences institutions that have set up shop in Massachusetts.

“Even though we are a very significant player in STEM education,” Baker said. “One of the big messages we hear over and over again … is we need to do more with respect to the pipeline, we need more folks coming into the field, more folks in the workforce development area and that’s going to end up being a major place where I believe we’ll create public private partnerships going forward.”

The state’s growing life sciences industry can be attributed to a rehaul of the education system in the 1990s and Gov. Patrick’s life sciences investment in 2008, the governor said, noting those investments allowed the state to more strongly support those interested in STEM, life sciences and biotechnology.

“That, in many respects, has been a tremendous asset to the companies and to the innovators and to others who have chosen to come to Massachusetts, to come to Boston to grow their businesses,” Baker said. “For us as a state where 20 of the largest 20 medical device companies have a significant presence in Massachusetts, where 18 of the most significant pharmabiotech companies have a presence and where we have a world-class intellectual ecosystem, that opportunity for us to continue to partner and invest side-by-side with so many of the world’s biggest brains in this space is a tremendous opportunity.”