State governors race to pledge billions for biotech investments

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While Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick promoted his $1 billion life sciences initiative at a biotechnology conference in San Diego, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley unveiled a $1.1 billion plan to buoy his state's life sciences industry over the next decade.

O'Malley’s aides called it the largest investment in biosciences per capita of any U.S. state, outpacing the Massachusetts initiative, California's $3 billion stem cell-research program, and Texas’s $3 billion bet on cancer research, according to the Boston Globe.

O'Malley detailed the proposal at a university research center in Maryland at the 2008 Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) convention in San Diego last week.

The Globe said that Maryland's move underscores growing competition for life sciences companies, across the U.S. and worldwide. More than 20,000 people attend the show from 48 states and 70 different countries.

Patrick, honored as BIO's governor of the year for his work to promote and nurture the state's biotech industry, told attendees that the $1 billion investment will create thousands of jobs, but he shied away from giving specific numbers, according to the Globe. Patrick also noted that the jobs will not materialize overnight.

As part of the life sciences initiative, Massachusetts has pledged $250 million in tax incentives to help companies expand; $500 million to build research labs and other public facilities (much of it earmarked for the state's university system); and $250 million for a mix of grants, fellowships; and other programs to boost the industry, the Globe reported.

Like Massachusetts, Maryland aims to distribute its money to various biotechnology projects. The proposal calls for spending $222 million to expand the state's biotech investment tax credit; $92 million to start a biotechnology center; $152 million to increase the state's venture funds; $300 million for sciences, research and technology initiatives; as well as millions to help commercialize academic or government research, and incubators to help start-ups and other programs, according to the Globe.