Bioengineering Institute Launched at WPI

Public-Private Partnership Envisions Central Mass. Bio-Manufacturing Hub

Contact: WPI Media Relations, 508-831-5616

Worcester, Mass. - April 24, 2003 - A partnership of academic, business and government leaders assembled today to mark the official opening of the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) Bioengineering Institute (BEI). This new institute will mine the best ideas from the area’s academic and corporate bio-research laboratories to design and manufacture products in central Massachusetts aimed at improving health and healthcare delivery worldwide. It provides crucial links between the growing life science sector and the region’s historically strong manufacturing community.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) and Rep. James P. McGovern (D-MA) were on hand this morning to celebrate the opening of BEI. During a presentation before central Massachusetts business and community leaders, Kennedy and McGovern laid out the vision of BEI as a promoter of job creation and economic vitality by facilitating the conversion of research discoveries into new products and new companies in the region.

BEI focuses on applied research, product development and product realization. It will create partnerships with area universities, hospitals, corporations and entrepreneurs to form an economic cluster focused on the creation and manufacture of bioengineered products such as medical devices; innovative approaches to improving healthcare delivery systems; and the development of new manufacturing processes for medical products. As a part of WPI, it draws from the university’s expertise in areas such as biosensors, wireless communication, information technology, bioinformatics, medical imaging and visualization systems.

"I’m so pleased that with along with Senator Kennedy we have been able to secure federal support for this initiative," Rep. McGovern said. "I believe that the BEI project is one of those rare economic development initiatives that has the potential to radically change a community for the better. This project will not only create jobs, it will do so in the area of biotechnology and manufacturing. The work that goes on here in Worcester will improve health and save lives.”

BEI is a natural for the central Massachusetts region around Worcester. The area has numerous advantages for growing businesses, including a favorable cost of living, a highly educated workforce, a thriving life science education cluster, advanced technology and transportation infrastructures, and a history of manufacturing innovation and leadership.

To leverage these strengths, Sen. Kennedy, Rep. McGovern, the City of Worcester, the Worcester Business Development Corporation (WBDC), WPI, foundations, and many others have lent their strong support to BEI.

In addition, the location of BEI is expected to be the catalyst of a larger project to reclaim former industrial areas of Worcester to attract bio-manufacturing jobs to the city. BEI is the anchor tenant of Gateway Park, a 15-acre, master-planned redevelopment of a former Worcester brown field. The project is being developed by Gateway LLC, a public-private venture between WPI and WBDC. At build out, the development will feature 1 million square feet of mixed-use space. BEI and the Manufacturing Assistance Center/Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Program are already located in the park adjacent to the WPI campus.

"For well over a century, WPI has provided business, scientific and technological innovations into the economy," noted Edward Alton Parrish, president of WPI. "Today, we are stepping up to the challenge of breathing new life into the area economy in the bio-manufacturing sector, just as we did earlier in spearheading advancements in industries such as metalworking, electronics, computers, aerospace and telecommunications."

Work at BEI is already under way. Last year, the university hired Washington, D.C., medical research veteran Timothy R. Gerrity, Ph.D., to lead the startup of the institute as its director. Worcester’s Fairlawn Foundation facilitated Gerrity’s recruitment with a generous grant. Over the past year, the institute has established four centers, each with a bioengineering focus, to deliver many potential applications. They are the Center for Bioprocessing and Tissue Engineering, the Center for Comparative Neuroimaging, the Center for Molecular Engineering and the Center for Untethered Healthcare. Currently, 25 research scientists, postgraduate and graduate-level researchers, and support staff work at BEI.

Already more than $3 million in research funding has been awarded to the institute. For example, the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command (USAMRMC) at Fort Detrick, Md., has provided nearly $2 million for BEI to develop a telemedicine system for real-time troop monitoring. This is expected to be a multiyear commitment to BEI and result in wireless physiological status monitoring systems with widespread applications.

To learn more about BEI and possible partnership opportunities, visit its Web site, or contact Timothy Gerrity at 508-831-0926.

About Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Founded in 1865, WPI is a pioneer in technological higher education. WPI was the first university to understand that students learn best when they have the opportunity to apply the knowledge they gain in the classroom to the solution of important problems. Today its students, working in teams at more than 20 project centers around the globe, put their knowledge and skills to work as they complete professional-level work that can have an immediate positive impact on society.

WPI’s innovative, globally focused curriculum has been recognized by leaders in industry, government and academia as the model for the technological education of tomorrow. Students emerge from this program as true technological humanists, well rounded, with the confidence, the interpersonal skills and the commitment to innovation they need to make a real difference in their professional and personal lives.

The university awarded its first advanced degree in 1898. Today, its first-rate research laboratories support master’s and Ph.D. programs in more than 30 disciplines in engineering, science and the management of technology. Located in the heart of the region’s biotechnology and high-technology sectors, WPI has built research programs–including the largest industry/university alliance in North America - that have won it worldwide recognition.