Mass. life science firms get $3.4m in state loans

Published: April 30, 2009  |  Source: boston.com
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Seven early-stage life sciences companies, working in areas ranging from cancer drugs to treatments for spinal cord injuries to tests for genetic disorders, were awarded a total of $3.4 million in loans yesterday under the state’s $1 billion life sciences initiative.

The so-called Accelerator loans were approved by the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, a quasi-public agency charged with implementing the state’s life sciences program. The center received 88 applications for the loans.

Winning loans of up to $500,000 were Eutropics Pharmaceuticals of Boston, an oncology drug company; Good Start Genetics of Boston, a molecular diagnostics company; InVivo Therapeutics of Cambridge, a stem cell and biomaterials company; Pluromed of Woburn, a maker of injectable plugs for surgery; Spectra Analysis of Marlborough, a supplier of spectroscopy systems; Wadsworth Technologies of Westborough, a medical device company; and Wolfe Laboratories of Watertown, a pre-clinical services firm.

“This is a big chunk, and we plan to put it to work in Massachusetts right away,” said Frank Reynolds, president of InVivo Therapeutics, which is developing spinal cord injury treatments using biomaterials combined with drugs and cells. Reynolds said he was also being wooed by economic development officials in Pennsylvania and Ireland, which had sought to host InVivo’s clinical trials.

A major goal of the loan program is to boost companies in the critical stage between when they license medical technology and the time they can attract venture capital or other financing. Another goal is to help companies expand in Massachusetts. Applicants were evaluated by the life sciences center’s advisory board, chaired by Harvey Lodish, biology professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Since the 10-year, $1 billion life sciences initiative was signed into law by Governor Deval Patrick last July, the center has invested $42.5 million – some of it previously appropriated – in projects, organizations, and researchers. But the amount set aside for loans and other investments in the current fiscal year was reduced 40 percent, from $25 million to $15 million, by the Legislature in a January.

In an interview, Patrick said he hoped to increase annual funding as the economy strengthens. “We’ve got limits on resources and limits on personnel, but given the limits, the results are encouraging so far,” he said.

By Robert Weisman, Globe Staff