Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., is championing theMassachusetts Biotechnology Research Institute (MBRI) byhelping to secure a $256,000 U.S. Department of Agriculturegrant for the institute's technology transfer activities.

Based in Worcester, Mass., the MBRI has served several localacademic institutions over the past five years, and haspreviously relied on Democratic Congressman Joe Early forannual operating grants of a similar size from the U.S.Department of Agriculture, said Marc Goldberg, the institute'spresident and chief executive officer.

However, Early was defeated last year by Republican PeterBloute, who did not appear as likely to win financial supportfrom the Democrat-controlled federal government, Worcesterarea business observers told BioWorld.

Goldberg said Kennedy learned that the funding had normallybeen forthcoming, and within days ensured that the grant wasincluded in the Agriculture Appropriations Bill for fiscal year1994. The bill passed the Senate on Monday and must now beapproved by the House of Representatives.

The technology transfer function of the institute has an annualoperating budget of roughly $500,000, provided bymembership fees and other state and federal grants, Goldbergsaid. The program would have been scaled back if the USDAfunding was not obtained, he added.

The institute has started 15 companies through its work withsuch organizations as Worcester Polytechnic Institute,Worcester State College, Clark University, College of the HolyCross, Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine,Worcester Foundation for Experimental Biology and the MedicalCenter of Central Massachusetts.

Technology licensed to commercial ventures may include suchagricultural components as veterinary treatments for livestockor new drug products from plant materials.

Although it is apparently the first technology transferorganization to receive this type of financial support from theUSDA, the MBRI would like to serve as a model for privateeconomic development centers offering a range of start-upservices across the country.

The Colorado Bio/Medical Venture Center is a public/privatepartnership that in June established a technology transfermodel in conjunction with the National Institutes of Health. TheMBRI also hopes to work with the National Institutes of Healthand has recently held discussions with that agency and theColorado Bio/Medical Venture Center, Goldman said.

-- Nancy Garcia Associate Editor

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.