With $650M bet, Cuomo all-in on life sciences

Science fact: New York State is throwing $650 million into a statewide life-sciences initiative.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

New York has launched a “groundbreaking” $650 million initiative to support life-science industries across the state.

The initiative, announced Monday, will offer investment capital, operating support and tax incentives to companies dabbling in biotechnology, pharmaceuticals and life-systems tech, as well as “organizations and institutions that devote the majority of their efforts to the various stages of research, development, technology transfer and commercialization,” according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office.

L’Chaim: Gov. Andrew Cuomo envisions a “world-class life-sciences cluster” across New York State.

Included in the initiative: $250 million in tax incentives for new and existing life-sciences companies, $200 million in NYS capital grants specifically to support “investment in wet-lab and innovation space,” $100 million in investment capital for early-stage life-sciences companies and “an additional match of at least $100 million for operating support from private-sector partnerships,” the governor’s office said.

The program will also dish out 3.2 million square feet of “innovation space” and 1,100 acres of developable land, tax-free, at 45 statewide college and university campuses.

On Long Island, that includes more than 100,000 square feet of existing space and 18.5 developable acres at Farmingdale State College – including open space inside Farmingdale State’s Broad Hollow Bioscience Park – and more than 157,000 square feet of existing space, plus 240 developable acres, at Stony Brook University.

There are also smaller chunks of available space at Hofstra University and SUNY-Old Westbury, as well as more than 81 acres of developable land around Suffolk County Community College. A complete list of tax-free space and open acreage has been posted by the governor’s office.

The initiative – which includes Excelsior Jobs Program tax credits for existing life-sciences businesses, as well as tax incentives for life-sciences startups and angel investors who get in early – is meant to be a booster rocket for a “world-class life-science cluster in New York,” Cuomo said Monday.

“New York is uniquely positioned to become a global powerhouse in the life-science sector,” the governor said. “This groundbreaking initiative is making the investments and establishing the programs necessary for capitalizing on our tremendous potential.”

The state is aiming to significantly increase its share of industry-funded research and development, while supporting the commercialization of existing academic research and ushering in the next generation of advanced technologies. The ultimate hope of the $650 million stake is to position New York as “a magnet for emerging manufacturing-based enterprises, bolstering regional economies and creating thousands of jobs,” according to the governor’s office.

The initiative also heralds the launch of a new life-sciences funding competition modeled on the state’s 43North innovation competition. In the new contest, New York will host a 13-week regional “life-science launch competition” in which startup firms engaged in “groundbreaking research” or developing “emerging technologies” will compete for $25,000 in grant funding – and a shot at one of five $100,000 top prizes at a statewide Life Sciences Summit, which will gather researchers, venture capitalists and other potential stakeholders. Details are pending, Cuomo’s office said.

With an eye on attracting and developing new life-sciences talent, the initiative is also slated to include new internship programs, recruitment programs and “entrepreneurial advisory panels” in conjunction with statewide academic programs and a host of state offices, including the New York State Department of Health.

Noting New York is already home to “many leading research institutions and life-science clusters,” Howard Zemsky – president and CEO of Empire State Development, Albany’s main economic-development engine – predicted the initiative “will spur an unprecedented investment in the life-science sector.”

“The life- and bioscience sector is a key contributor to our state’s economy,” seconded Heather Briccetti, president and CEO of the Business Council of New York State Inc. “The life-sciences sector accounts for a quarter of a million jobs and billions in wages in New York … and generates significant federal funds.

“We applaud the governor for announcing this initiative and ensuring New York keeps pace with, and surpasses, the bioscience investment of our fellow states.”

The initiative also earned accolades from SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher, CUNY Chancellor James Milliken and a host of life-sciences corporations and business-development organizations – as well as other insiders with expert knowledge of how far life-sciences investments can go.

“An investment by the state in the life sciences is of great benefit,” James Simons, chairman and namesake of the Simons Foundation, said in a statement. “This type of funding will have a positive impact both on our economy and our ability to drive scientific innovation.”


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