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On the campus of the Gloucester Marine Genomic Institute (GMGI), surrounded by students and some fishy specimens, Governor Charlie Baker reaffirmed that Massachusetts is the most innovative state in the nation, and a global leader in the life sciences. And in order advance that primacy, he announced $39 million in grants to benefit students and research institutions across the Commonwealth.

Of that $39 million, $35 million is from the Massachusetts Life Science Center (MLSC) Competitive Capital Program will go to higher education and research institutes for research and workforce training, while the remaining $4 million will go to middle and high schools to STEM equipment and programs around the state.

During the award announcement at the GMGI, Governor Baker expressed his excitement for the funding of research centers and life sciences training facilities at colleges, universities, middle schools and high schools across the Commonwealth.

“The projects that we are announcing today demonstrate our commitment to investing in the innovation economy, supporting game-changing technological research, and creating jobs in every region of the Commonwealth,” Governor Baker explained.

President and CEO of the MLSC, Travis McCready, was also in attendance and expressed his enthusiasm that these grants will advance job opportunities in the Massachusetts life sciences ecosystem, and will provide various research institutions with the resources they need to improve patient care and the economy.

As for the event’s hosts, GMGI is receiving $2.7 million that will go towards building and equipping a research laboratory right on the waterfront. Chris Munkholm, Executive Director of the GMGI, said the grant will allow them to build an institute “in which world-class research will unlock scientific discoveries that can impact human health and create opportunities we cannot yet imagine.” The research lab is the next step in the institute’s of building a biotechnology hub on Cape Ann. This follows their success launch of the Gloucester Biotechnology Academy in 2015.

Also speaking at the announcement was Katherine Dench, one of the Gloucester Biotechnology Academy’s founding students. Having had a difficult childhood that saw her die when Katherine was just 11, and in her own words, she simply fell in with a “bad crowd” and had no ambition for learning.

The Gloucester Times picked up on Katherine’s story in their coverage:

But through sheer perseverance, Dench righted her life, going on to junior college and later to Salem State University before being forced to drop out for financial reasons.

She worked as the receptionist at Maritime Gloucester and later aboard the pinky schooner Ardelle. She worked in education and construction and finally, with the help of Tom Balf at Maritime Gloucester and others, she ultimately found her way into GMGI’s inaugural class.

In 10 days, she is set to begin one of the paid internships available to all of the academy’s students.

“I went online and it was if they had designed the program just for me,” Dench said. “From the first day of class, I knew I had found where I belong. The time I’ve spent at the academy has been like a dream.”

Universities receiving grants include (but are not limited to) Bristol Community College, Dean College, Framingham State University, Merrimack College, Westfield State University, and the Harvard School of Public Health, along with research institutions like the GMGI and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. The funding supports high-potential economic development projects that enable and support life sciences workforce development and training, research and development, and commercialization and manufacturing.

Governor Baker also announced funding for 49 middle and high schools across Massachusetts through the MLSC’s STEM Equipment and Supply Grant Program. The grants will provide schools with state-of-the-art equipment and will train teachers on how to use it in order to best serve their students.

Some schools receiving grants include Brockton High School, East Boston High School, South High Community School in Worcester, New Bedford Middle and High Schools, O’Maley Innovation Middle School in Gloucester, Gloucester High School, and Chicopee Comprehensive High School.

These grants will leave a lasting impact on the community. Gloucester Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken expressed her appreciation and delight that Massachusetts believed in Gloucester to fund their schools and marine research. “You’re giving us a change of life,” Mayor Romeo Theken expressed during her remarks at the morning’s ceremony.

Governor Baker believes that “matching our regional needs to our education system is the key to sustaining Massachusetts’ edge and advancing an economy that benefits every town, and every family in Massachusetts.”

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