Biotechs and Robotics Pay Off for Massachusetts

A law passed in 2008 that provides subsidies to biotech and robotics companies in Massachusetts is helping to grow these industries in the commonwealth. Some say the biotech and robotics industries in MA are beginning to rival those of Tokyo and California, which have long been considered the global leaders in this type of business.

Massachusetts Received One Third of Seed Stage Funding

One of the reasons for this growth in the commonwealth is the Massachusetts Life Sciences Act of 2008. This legislation authorized $1 billion in investments, grants, loans, and tax breaks over the next decade to be given to local biotech companies. The government is following through with their promise; they have presented over $761 million in seed-stage funding for these businesses between 2009 and 2013. This has allowed nine of the ten largest drug manufacturing companies to set up research and development laboratories in Massachusetts.


Foundry robotics.

Homegrown vs. Tax IncentivesPaying Twofold

One of pivotal stipulation of the MA incentive package is that it focuses on local businesses who have already been working in the industry. Legislation hoped to unlock the commercial potential of research already being conducted at state universities including Harvard, MIT, and the University of Massachusetts. By attracting smaller companies on the cutting edge of research, Massachusetts has found that large companies tend to migrate to states where those small companies are thriving.

Army collaborates with robotics.

Massachusetts Grows ConnectionsAnd Keeps Them

Attracting smaller companies that draw the interest of larger companies has helped Massachusetts become a leader in the biotech and robotics industry. The new financial incentives attract companies and talent to the commonwealth. As the biotech and robotics industries continue to grow, investors have become more motivated to provide additional seed money for growing companies. Larger companies have spent more time mentoring startup companies after seeing their industry swell; the success of large and small companies comes as a benefit to the state.


Atlas, a humanoid robot from Boston Dynamics.

The Future of Robotics in New England

Since 2008, at least twenty robotics companies have sprouted up in Massachusetts; venture capital in the robotics industry has also grown to more than $60 million, up from $20 million in 2008. Technology giants like Amazon and Google have provided millions of dollars in startup funds for robotic-focused companies through acquisitions and other forms of investment.

Unfortunately, trends have shown that smaller companies often sell to larger firms before they can grow to a significant size. This has prevented Massachusetts from becoming a true powerhouse in robotics. The international robotics industry saw $15 billion in 2010; it is expected to see $65 billion by 2025. Experts say that special focus will be given to robotics that provide everyday utility, including those that help clean and maintain homes.

Massachusetts has implemented incentives that have helped the state grow the robotics and biotech industries, but many experts say there is still significant room for growth.

California Superbug Trumped by Massachusetts-Made Device

An outbreak of drug-resistant bacteria at UCLA caused the death of several patients this past year. The source of the “superbug” was traced back to the use of contaminated endoscopes. Officials at UCLA stated that the endoscopes, by their design, are difficult to sanitize and that they followed the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions precisely.

The superbug is called CRE,  is a family of germs that live in the human gastrointestinal tract and have evolved to be resistant to antibiotics. CRE does not always cause an infection in people in fact if someone has a healthy stomach the infection may not occur. CRE becomes dangerous—and potentially fatal—when it reaches the bloodstream or the bladder. It can even cause infection if it is exposed to an open wound on the skin. For patients with other conditions such as cancer, the risk of death increases. Unfortunately, this is precisely the kind of underlying condition patients receiving the endoscopies had at the time the device was used.

Officials at UCLA have stated that the endoscopes are produced by different manufacturers and are all equally difficult to sanitize. Treating CRE is difficult due to its resistance to antibiotics and experts in infectious diseases state that drug companies have stopped producing new antibiotics because there isn’t enough money in the business. The best option, then,  is to prevent the spread of CRE in the first place.

Medford based Langford IC Systems has developed a possible solution to the endoscope threat. The company has been working with Proven Process Medical Devices for more than a decade to create a new medical device cleaning system. The small nooks and crannies of a small device, like an endoscope, pose a serious challenge when trying to assure the removal of microscopic bacteria. Infections can fester and grow despite stringent sanitization processes.

“The machine that we developed would clean, high level disinfect and rinse …off the instrument. It’s way ahead of its time,” said Terry Langford, founder and owner of Langford IC Systems.

Although the device has been approved by the FDA since 2011, there was not much of a market for it until now. With the outbreak of the superbug in California, hospitals have begun to reconsider the way their devices are cleaned. The small crevices and flexible nature of the endoscope make it hard to sterilize manually. The Langford IC cleaning unit is essentially a dishwasher for medical equipment. It pulses water several hundred times a second to flush out bacteria.
So far, a hospital in Missouri has installed the device. With third party proof of concept and an easy install method, the company expects many more requests as the year progresses.