Coalition seeks to brand Red Line as ‘Life Science Corridor’

David Eisenstadter, Special to the Reporter
May. 29, 2014

Mayors of Boston, Braintree, Cambridge, Quincy, and Somerville are marketing the Red Line as the spine of the region’s “Life Science Corridor,” with Dorchester at its heart.

Those five municipalities contain about 500 companies in the life science industry, which include businesses specializing in biopharmaceuticals, medical devices, animal and agricultural bioscience, and commercial research and testing, according to John Barros, the city’s Chief of Economic Development.

“It’s a pillar of our local and regional economy,” said Barros, adding that the Life Science industry represented 125,000 jobs in the area.

City officials representing the region will bring marketing materials to the Biotechnology Industry Organization International Conference in San Diego on June 23-26 showcasing the Boston area as the world’s largest Life Science hub in the world, according to Barrows.

That could mean more companies moving to places like Dorchester, Barros said.

“Dorchester is a big part of the Red Line and as we brand the Red Line as the Life Science Corridor, more companies that come to the area will come to places like Dorchester,” Barrows said.

One key Dorchester resource already in place is the UMass Boston Venture Development Center.

William Brah, founder and director of the center, said he was pleased to see the neighboring cities stop squabbling among each other for companies to move within their borders.

“We can do more by collaborating than competing; it’s the other regions of the nation
or world we’re competing with,” Brah said. “When I saw this I was jumping for joy, and not just because we’re in the middle of it.”

Practically speaking, the corridor is unlikely to affect the Venture Development Center, which invites entrepreneurial teams from local and regional universities to incubate start-up companies, according to Brah.

However, the corridor has a symbolic value, communicating the importance of the corridor to the rest of the world, Brah said.

He added that the corridor already existed before the mayors of the municipalities released their statement.

“It’s the economy that is creating this corridor, not the leadership of the cities,” Brah said. “Our role is to make it easier to launch a company in one place or another.”

Brah said that the cities’ leadership teams recognizing the corridor helps by showing the rest of the world that this region is serious about being a dominant player in the life science industry.

Founded in 2009, the center contains about 25 businesses with 60 inquiries for two more spots for start-ups within the center, according to Brah.

As large pharmaceutical companies continue to downsize and lay people off, that delegates research to smaller companies like the ones in the Venture Development Center.

Companies within the center are developing techniques to move medical science forward, according to Brah. One example involved restoring muscle function to babies who are born with low muscle tone, Brah said.

Life Science companies are good for the local economy in that they have jobs at all levels, Barros said. Such companies employ high school students from Dorchester for summer jobs, he said.

Barros said Boston Mayor Martin Walsh was working with the other municipalities to bring growth not only to Boston, but to neighboring cities, as well.

“This is symbolic of the Walsh administration’s approach of collaboration,” Barros said. “We understand we’re part of a regional economy with 4.5 million people.”