Baystate Health Will Build Clinical Trial Centers In Springfield, Greenfield
A center where new drugs and experimental medical treatments will be tested on patients is being built in western Massachusetts.
With almost $4 million in funds from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, Baystate Medical Center plans to build a clinical trials unit and research pharmacy in Springfield.
Baystate Health CEO Dr. Mark Keroack said the new center will make innovations in medicine available to people who have exhausted other treatments.
" This is about hope," said Keroack, recalling his time as a doctor involved in clinical trials with AZT that was used to treat patients with AIDS.
The new clinical trials unit will be constructed in an existing building on Baystate’s sprawling campus in Springfield’s North End. A satellite unit is planned at Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield.
Clinical trials are typically the last step before a new drug or medical device is approved by government regulators for wider use.
Having a clinic trials unit in western Massachusetts means patients will no longer have to travel out of the region to hospitals in Boston or elsewhere for experimental treatments. It will also bring research jobs to the local economy, according to Dr. Peter Friedmann, chief research officer at Baystate.
"We are hoping to be able to create about 60 jobs over 3-5 years," said Friedmann.
He said there will be collaboration with community colleges in the region to help develop a workforce in the area of clinical research.
Baystate is among 11 hospitals and other institutions awarded a total of $31 million in grants from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center for capital projects. There were 45 applications.
Travis McCready, president of the quasi-state agency, said there are scientific reasons to have a place to conduct clinical trials in western Massachusetts, where the population is both urban and rural. There is the added benefit of trying to expand the state’s thriving biotechnology sector to areas beyond greater Boston.
"It was actually the scientific enterprise that was most compelling and then the economic and regional aspects were frankly the icing on the cake," McCready said.
Members of the region’s legislative delegation heralded the funding announcement, with Democratic State Senator James Welch of West Springfield calling it a “significant investment” in western Massachusetts.
"This is a great example of bringing state resources back," said Welch.
Hoping to grab a foothold in the then-burgeoning life sciences industry, the Massachusetts legislature in 2008 passed a $1 billion bond bill. The bond was reauthorized in 2018 for another decade.
With 300,000 jobs, Massachusetts is now second only to California when it comes to employment in the life sciences fields.