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Marlborough Summit: Collaborations key in Biotech industry

October 28, 2011 – A difficult environment for initial public offerings and venture capital financing has led many research and technology companies to rely on collaborations with other businesses in their industry as a way to innovate, said Robert Coughlin, president of the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council during a forum in Marlborough this morning.

The Marlborough Innovation Summit gathered leaders from the MetroWest region’s life sciences and biotechnology community at the Holiday Inn Hotel. The event, which was presented by the Marlborough Economic Development Corp., included a presentation by MEDC Chairman and Mirick O’Connell lawyer Arthur Bergeron of a master plan for the city and a panel discussion with representatives from local businesses.

Coughlin, the morning’s keynote speaker, spoke about the strengths of the biotechnology, pharmaceutical and medical device industries in Massachusetts, which he said contribute $4.6 billion in payroll, with an average salary of more than $95,000. In a 30-mile radius around Marlborough, he said, there are more than 400 biotechnology and pharmaceutical businesses.

“This is an area that is ripe for companies to come to,” he said.

Bergeron said despite the strengths of the region, more must be done to attract and retain businesses, particularly to Marlborough. While Marlborough has more than 37,000 workers in the city, there is also 2 million square feet of vacant office space in the city with no new commercial construction estimated until 2013, he said.

The MEDC recently spent $200,000 to create a master plan for the community to identify goals to increase business development. One of the keys, he said, is to increase personal interactions with business leaders in the community. Monday’s event was meant in part to do that.

Representatives from Boston Scientific, Advanced Cell Technology, CeQur and GlycoSolutions, among other companies located in Marlborough, spoke about their interactions with the community during a panel discussion.

David Pierce, senior vice president of Boston Scientific and president of the company’s $1.2 billion international endoscopy division, said he is happy to have moved the division to Marlborough after it outgrew the company’s Natick headquarters. In the last 10 months the division has hired about 80 engineers and is planning additional growth. His biggest concern: A tax on medical device manufacturers that is set to go into effect in the coming years that passed as part of the national health care overhaul.

Elizabeth Higgins, president and CEO of GlycoSolutions, a contract manufacturing biotech company, moved her business from incubator lab space in Worcester to Marlborough this year to take advantage of less expensive rent. She said one problem is finding small lab space, in the 3,000 to 5,000 square foot range. But, she said having access to the entire Central Massachusetts biotech community is a helpful advantage to being in the region.

This story originally appeared here