LI rainmakers applaud Albany’s life-science focus

Diane Fabel heads the Bioscience Hub program.

A day before sharing his 2017 social and economic vision for Long Island, Gov. Andrew Cuomo offered some music for the Island’s ears.

Cuomo, who on Monday delivered the Buffalo and New York City versions of his 2017 State of the State proposals, is scheduled to bring his annual SOTS tour east on Tuesday. But first, his office reaffirmed the governor’s plans to pump $650 million into the state’s burgeoning life-sciences industries, with Albany announcing Monday that capital investments, tax incentives and various operational support programs are now available to new and existing businesses statewide.

The sweeping life-sciences research and commercialization initiative includes $250 million in tax incentives for startups and established companies, $200 million in state capital grants to support investment in wet-lab and innovation space and $100 million in investment capital for early-stage initiatives. Cuomo’s office also promises “at least” $100 million more in operating support through “private-sector partnerships.”

Clinton Rubin: A “wise” investment in New York’s future.

As part of his city stump, Cuomo announced Monday that the state will also pony up $17 million in capital funding to help launch JLABS@NYC, a collaboration between the New York Genome Center and Johnson & Johnson Innovation, a collaborative bridge between innovative entrepreneurs and the global healthcare business. As designed, the 30,000-square-foot, city-based incubator would have capacity enough for 30 life-science startups, according to the governor’s office.

Noting the “ever-evolving life-science sector” is “helping to cure disease and save lives around the world,” Cuomo said Monday the JLABS investment would serve as a “catalyst” for the state economy.

“[Life sciences] is discovering solutions to the most pressing problems of our time,” the governor said. “New York is poised to be a global leader in this industry, and the new, vital incubator JLABS … pushes our state into the forefront of this exciting field.”

On Long Island, life-science commercialization is the primary focus of the Regional Economic Development Council and the main thrust behind initiatives like the Long Island Bioscience Hub, which unites research programs at Stony Brook University, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Brookhaven National Laboratory and the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research. To that end, science and business advocates are already excited by the governor’s $650 million plan, which Cuomo first announced in December.

The half-billion-plus is “a great investment in New York and a great opportunity to build a terrific foundation for the high-end jobs that New York could thrive on,” according to Clinton Rubin, director of SBU’s Center for Biotechnology, the engine driving the Bioscience Hub.

“It’s a growing industry and a very wise foundation to build on,” Rubin said Monday, adding Albany’s investments could pay particular dividends downstate.

“This works into the strengths of the academic institutions that such an industry can grow around,” Rubin noted. “It’s wonderful that there are such great institutions across New York State, and in particular in the New York City and Long Island regions.

“With institutions like Stony Brook, Cold Spring Harbor, BNL and Feinstein, it’s a great chance to build from strength.”

Kevin Law: All aboard with Long Island life-science initiatives.

Cuomo’s proposed life-sciences package makes existing businesses eligible for an annual allocation of $10 million in Excelsior Jobs Program tax credits. New life-sciences businesses are eligible for a 15 percent refundable tax credit on all qualifying R&D expenditures, while small, existing businesses can apply for a 20 percent refundable credit.

The state package also offers angel investors tax credits worth up to 25 percent of their early-stage life-sciences investments, with a maximum break of $250,000 per investor.

To further promote the development of new biotech, pharmaceuticals and life-systems technologies, Albany is also offering tax breaks on more than 4.2 million square feet of existing space – and more than 2,000 acres of developable land – on or near educational campuses.

Noting that “the Long Island and New York City economies are linked,” Long Island Association President and CEO Kevin Law, who co-chairs the LIREDC with Hofstra University President Stuart Rabinowitz, said Albany’s life-sciences focus – including the state’s hefty investment in the Soho-based JLABS incubator – is terrific news for the Island.

“As we try to create a downstate cluster of life-science industries, the governor’s proposal will enhance these efforts,” Law told Innovate LI.

The LIREDC co-chairman even drew a connection to another of Cuomo’s bold, Long Island-friendly priorities: the Long Island Rail Road “third track,” a long-debated 9.8-mile spur designed to alleviate legendary railroad delays between Floral Park and Hicksville – and to do so with minimum disruption to riders, motorists, neighboring properties and taxpayers’ wallets.

“The governor’s support or the LIRR third track program will make it easier for those employed in the life sciences fields to travel to the city,” Law said, “and to the many biotech companies and research institutions on Long Island.”

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