State creates new program for women entrepreneurs in life sciences

Winners will receive funding, as well as professional development and coaching support from industry professionals.

BOSTON, Mass. (WWLP) –  A new competitive program to support women entrepreneurs in early-stage life sciences companies, the Massachusetts Next Generation Initiative (MassNextGen), was launched by the state on Friday. Currently a five-year, $1 million commitment, the public-private partnership will focus on empowering women and diversity in the next generation of life sciences entrepreneurs.

The program will identify promising women-owned or controlled life science companies, and provide funding and access to a panel of executive coaches to ensure that they have essential resources to succeed. The Massachusetts Life Sciences Center MLSC will coordinate and award a year of support to two, women-owned or controlled, early-stage life science companies each year.

The $1,000,000 commitment includes $500,000 in direct awards to participants, with $250,000 in 1-to-1 funding matches from Takeda as the initial partner and the MLSC. An additional $500,000 in in-kind contributions will be provided for networking, professional development and coaching support. MLSC will leverage the region’s substantial network of seasoned entrepreneurs, investors and life science experts to serve as executive coaches to the winners of the MassNextGen Initiative.

A recent report from Babson College found that only 15% of the companies receiving venture capital investment had a woman on the executive team from 2011-2013. Only 3% of total venture capital dollars in the U.S. went to companies with a female CEO and it is hardest for female executives to attain seed-stage funding. The life sciences ecosystem, entrepreneurs and investors alike, benefits from having more diverse leaders with talent and bright ideas.

In June the state administration announced a legislative proposal that would increase Massachusetts’ leadership in the life sciences sector. It would provide up to $500 million over five years for strategic investments in public infrastructure, research and development, and workforce training and education, including up to $295 million in capital authorization and up to $150 million job-creating tax incentives. The funding will continue to be managed by the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC), which is co-chaired by Administration and Finance Secretary Michael J. Heffernan and Housing and Economic Development Secretary Jay Ash.