UMass Amherst Receives State Grant to Develop Life Sciences Programs

The University of Massachusetts Amherst has received a $300,000 grant from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center. The grant is aimed at expanding the school’s life sciences programs and involvement in what officials are calling Massachusetts’ “bio-economy.”

The grant is part of Governor Deval Patrick’s Life Sciences Initiative. The program was approved by the legislature in 2008, promising to invest $1 billion over ten years in life sciences education and industry. Life sciences encompasses biology and other studies of living organisms. Mike Malone, Vice Chancellor for Research and Engagement at UMass Amherst, says the most recent batch of funding will support a research project to determine the best use for a future $95 million dollar grant from the center. That money will help fund the construction of a new life sciences building, and invest in the school’s nanotechnology and precision manufacturing research.

Malone says the funds will also help develop partnerships with businesses in the region and he says research funding at Umass helps stimulate the economy in western Massachusetts.

“When research dollars, let’s say, from the federal government or the private sector come to the university, they’re spent in the community. The ratio is typically 2.1 to 1, or something like that. So if we get a dollar of sponsored research, that generates $2.10 in economic activity in the community.”

The grant comes on the heels of a report by the National Science Board, which says direct per-student state funding to UMass dropped by 27 percent between 2002 and 2010, which could adversely affect science and engineering programs. Malone says the study doesn’t take into account grants from agencies like the Life Sciences Center, which he says helps grow Umass’ science and technology programs.