A storytelling project sharing snapshots of the people in Kendall Square who are leading, pivoting, and problem solving to drive real change.
Meet Elizabeth Bramson-Boudreau—CEO & Publisher, MIT Tech Review
In this agonistic climate of fake news, how important is it for people to access correct information? How do you address these challenges in your work?
Our journalists, editors, and writers are dedicated to the discipline of research, reporting, verifying information, confirming interviews — to feature very robust reporting. Our research complements everything we publish. There’s a lot of information that gets published before it’s verified and that’s not how we do things. We are always aware of our parent MIT, and want them to be as proud of us as we are of them. The impact of bad information is incredible, especially in this moment politically. What we are experiencing is a fight for quality reporting – our readers know they can trust us. Those who do not know us will give us a closer look because they understand we carry a brand with 150+ years of rigor behind it.
The recent and unprecedented collaborations happening in Kendall Square around COVID-19 responses are heartening. What do you feel is the greatest upside, possible or probable, that could come from these advances in testing and targeted therapeutics?
Kendall Square is such a hub of innovation, discovery, and academic achievement. It’s such a special location – while you grab a sandwich you can encounter people you’ve read articles about who are at the forefront of their field. Doing good for the world pervades the MIT ethos. We have spent a lot of time emphasizing the use of scholarship and accomplishment to make the world better for everyone. What was happening here was always of increasing global significance, but never more than today. What’s happening in this square mile should solve a global crisis that we’re all stuck in and its implications will support people all over the world.
What do you think about the remaining real challenges around this pandemic?
As a business leader, I’ve never spent more time than these past few months thinking about the lives of people who work for me. The first priority in March was to get everybody home, secured and safe. We needed to get through that first transition and now we know we can work and collaborate remotely. The focus now needs to be caring for co-workers, dividing time, and stress management. I have teenagers, and they’re more autonomous, but little kids and parents of little kids need more support for screens and staying safe if they are attending school. When this is over, I hope that our orientation toward supporting the whole employee will remain. This is also a moment in thinking about diversity and the different experience staff members bring and what some of the headwinds may be that are different than others, especially those who don’t feel quite as heard or cared for. Caring for the whole person is something that I think needs to continue beyond this moment – let’s have this be something we really mean, not just say.
What bright spots would you want to share with our community?
I think that as citizens in an open and free society, we have to expect that there is value to information about what’s happening in our world. You have to pay for content, the internet has taught us that when content is free, you get what you pay for. I’m an avid media consumer, it’s the job, and I would encourage community members to pay for the publications on topics that are most valuable and matter to you. We cannot take vetted, quality, content for granted because there are no guarantees in the media industry at this point. The free content everyone can access varies in reliability. You have to believe information has value and I believe you must assign that value from your wallet. If not, then information becomes about what makes the most noise, and that’s not a society I want.
Meet Rodrigo Martinez—Chief Marketing & Experience Officer, CIC Health
What is the mission behind CIC Health?
The idea of our service offer is really around three specific words: accessible, fast, and easy. The mission is to get high-quality testing at the lowest possible cost—for safer work, school, and daily life. This program is transforming the larger testing landscape. We offer a wide range of testing services to organizations—schools, colleges, healthcare facilities, state-run testing sites; as well as offering testing services to individuals.
Who is CIC Health available to?
We have two main channels, B2B and B2C. We are testing thousands of teachers, students all across New England, as well as supporting hospitals, elderly care facilities, and even prisons. Overall we have enabled more than 250,000 tests with over 100 organizations. We are also supporting the state of Vermont with their state-wide testing efforts. We design our services around the needs of the organization or geography. This October, we’ve opened our services to the public at 245 Main Street in Kendall Square with the plan to expand this offering around Boston—and nationally.
How are you feeling overall about the company?
From our perspective, our growth has been terrific! We couldn’t have done it without the team at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard—the first lab we began collaborating with; so we’re lucky to find ourselves in this innovative and collaborative ecosystem. We are expanding across New England and soon nationally; we have a fantastic network of collaborators and partners. We want to do our part in getting the country back on its feet. We are just getting started!
Meet Stephen Pitt—Head of JLABS, US North East, Johnson & Johnson Innovation
How has Johnson & Johnson Innovation used COVID-19 to get creative?
When COVID-19 hit, our biggest consideration was how can we help keep our employees, partners, and residents safe? Because we saw early on that each start-up was impacted differently and found ourselves in the epicenter of the global pandemic, we deployed a Financial Relief Program for companies experiencing economic hardship as a result of the pandemic. That way they could either refocus efforts to address the current crisis or continue to drive forward other potentially critical healthcare solutions for people around the world. More than 50 companies in our global JLABS network are exploring novel ideas with the aim to help address the COVID-19 pandemic.
We also decided to use this time as an opportunity to fine tune the work we do with the life science community. We view ourselves as the “Red Door” into Johnson & Johnson, and we feel it’s vital that the outside world understand how people can work with us, which can be challenging with an organization this complex and dynamic. To help bring the best ideas into Johnson & Johnson Innovation, we offer a range of tools to serve start-ups at every stage of development, including mentorship, equity investment, strategic collaborations, incubation, and many more.
How are you supporting entrepreneurs?
We aim to bring the scale of Johnson & Johnson’s resources to help start-ups, from early-stage companies just starting to develop the next potential breakthrough to established companies further along the development path. A lot of start-ups will tell us that we’re a part of their teams, not vice versa. We’ve also built programming into our ecosystem tailored to helping life science entrepreneurs– from how to write a grant and think about D&I to providing feedback on what products will be commercially viable.
And this summer we announced the first class of companies selected from across our portfolio to be part of BLUE KNIGHT™, a joint initiative between Johnson & Johnson Innovation and BARDA, the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority aimed to accelerate science and technologies with the goal to help address potential health security threats and emerging infectious diseases. The collaboration supports start-ups focused on combating emerging infectious diseases – such as COVID-19— as well as other public health threats. We’re currently exploring opportunities for engaging Boston-based companies for Blue Knight.
We look forward to concluding 2020 with our BARDA symposium on December 8-10, which will convene the emerging Blue Knight community of thought leaders, innovators, and entrepreneurs working with the aim to bolster our response to capacity and capabilities to address 21st-century health security threats.
What do you see as bright spots from the Kendall community and beyond?
What we’re seeing is the entire industry coming together on whole new levels of collaboration aiming to solve the most important healthcare challenges of our time. We’re also seeing the COVID-19 pandemic help accelerate very important areas such as democratizing clinical trials, focusing on underserved populations, developing new diagnostic tools, and many more. People also want to know and do more about their health than ever and progress towards home diagnostics, education, and telemedicine are all dramatically changing how we access and think about healthcare.
Meet Jen Faigel, Executive Director—CommonWealth Kitchen
How is your staff doing?
It’s such a challenging time. We’re doing the best we can to lean into our core values around equity and opportunity, which is what’s gotten us here, and what feels meaningful right now. We’re not a traditional office with desks and cubicles. Most of our staff work in the kitchens or facilities. So much of our work happened informally. Not all being together is a big challenge, especially for Luddites like me who have to get used to all sorts of new technology, but overcoming challenges is a key part of who we are!
How have you pivoted your business model?
COVID has been a nightmare for us. In March, we had to temporarily close the kitchens because none of our 50 members had any work and we needed to figure out how we could possibly safely operate a shared kitchen and maintain proper distancing. We saw 40% of our budget evaporate overnight. Initially, we were focused on helping our business community figure out the alphabet soup of PPP, EIDL, and P-unemployment and advocating for government support. A few weeks later, as hunger and unemployment swelled in Boston, we launched our CommonTable emergency food program, which has been providing prepared meals and grocery boxes to feed families in need. We named it CommonTable because, when you have more than you need, you build a longer table, not a taller fence. With help from our network of restaurants (all owned by POC & immigrants), our members and staff, we produced almost 80,000 meals to feed families across Boston in just three months.
At the same time, we’re still deeply engaged with our member businesses as they figure out a path forward in this new environment. This month alone, two of our businesses are launching products in Whole Foods, and we were able to secure food truck spots at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and soon near the MFA. These opportunities came our way because of our strong, aligned networks.
What are you doing to be creative?
The hallmark of our organization—what’s felt powerful—has been finding ways to partner with our network of businesses. Everybody is in pain, everybody is hurting, everybody is looking for a solution. The idea that we’ve been able to mobilize more than 30 Black, Latinx, and immigrant-owned businesses at this crazy moment and paid them to feed their neighbors is so tangible and inspiring- it feels incredible. But we know it’s not enough and that without a government bailout, most of the businesses we work with probably won’t survive. So, we’re actively engaged in finding interim solutions that can help our businesses weather the storm-like advocating for use of FEMA funds to pay restaurants to feed neighbors in need. This is already happening in New Orleans and across California and there’s no reason we can’t be doing it here. We’re also trying to find ways to mobilize our networks to help solve the puzzle of how to provide breakfast and lunch to thousands of school kids that will be learning from home. This is definitely a time where creativity and the ability to adapt are key!
Meet Michal Preminger, Head—Johnson & Johnson Innovation, East North America
Tell us about Johnson & Johnson Innovation’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic?
Michal: From the very beginning, Johnson & Johnson has been actively engaged in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic through the development of a COVID-19 vaccine candidate, which has been made possible through a collaboration with the Biomedical Advanced Research & Development Authority (BARDA) and with academic collaborators right across the river from Kendall. In addition to vaccine development, we’ve also been trying to support external opportunities and ideas relating to COVID-19 that were developed by the community. In March, we brought in our 3D printing technology to help support the need for ventilators.
Additionally, together with our global partners, our Johnson & Johnson Innovation network continued to engage with entrepreneurs and life-science startups, evaluated and advised on more than 100 COVID-19 related solutions, moving beyond PPE and ventilators to testing and diagnostics, prevention, and treatment against the virus, as well as more broadly, especially when we learned that the virus attacks through acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).
How has COVID-19 reinforced your mission?
Michal: COVID-19 also taught us that, working together toward a well-defined common purpose, has unlimited potential. This confirms our belief at Johnson & Johnson Innovation that transformational innovation can be achieved when innovators are inspired and presented with clear unmet needs while given access to the resources a partner like us offers. The ability to pivot toward a need is so important, and, indeed, innovators did just that in tackling the unfolding series of COVID-19 challenges, giving further confirmation to our innovation philosophy.
How do you feel about the Kendall community?
Michal: Being a part of this community has always given us a sense of pride, especially now. Look at what the Broad Institute, and also the CIC, has done with testing! Look at how new companies are formed, funded, and settling in Kendall despite COVID-19. The lights are on all around, in the labs that are delivering the next wave of new therapies, vaccines, and enabling technologies. My trust in the resilience and strength of the community makes me optimistic. At Johnson and Johnson, we blend heart and science to change the trajectory of human health. This is exactly what this community is doing, as well. And when you do the right thing in science, driven by the right purpose, you will prevail, and I trust that thanks to the ingenuity of our people from Kendall and beyond, we will deliver the right solutions, learn from this pandemic, and come out wiser, stronger, and better prepared for the future.
What do you see as bright spots from the Kendall community and beyond?
Michal: Johnson & Johnson Innovation has been pioneering a shift toward a world without disease through early disease detection, interception, and prevention. This is an aspiration shared by many, but it has been slow to develop, due to an absence of sufficient incentives to change. COVID-19 accelerated the need for home-based care solutions and has triggered a wave of new approaches in telemedicine and diagnostics. It’s exciting to see the progress that is driven by this pandemic. The great Winston Churchill, who said “never waste a good crisis,” would be proud to see what we have achieved.
Meet Eric Quadrino, Partner—Sulmona Restaurant
How is your staff doing?
The key to getting back to business is wearing multiple hats—and we need utility players. At the end of the day that’s the retooling needed to make any business function. Morale is high, but we’re struggling with logistics for getting to and from work and balancing childcare needs. We have a strong sense of camaraderie though. COVID-19 has helped our staff feel united—like going to war and returning with a sense of service and part of something bigger.
How has your menu changed since returning to work?
We’re focusing more on comfort foods: pastas and pizzas. We’re dipping our toes into our more traditional menu by adding higher end items like steaks into the specials using a seven-count, so we don’t overextend our own ordering. This is Kendall, so we’re treating menu items like a test case to see what will go back on the menu.
How can the community be helpful to the small business community at this moment?
People have different risk tolerances. Whether eating indoors, outdoors, or doing takeout, we want folks to come out to eat with us and share their positive experience.
What’s the restaurant community’s greatest asset for bouncing back to business?
Sharing positive experiences by word of mouth and social media is local businesses’ greatest opportunity for rebounding business. Unfortunately, I can’t say “come back to work,” but I can advocate for sharing your stories so consumer patterns begin to return.
Meet Jon Feinman, Chief Executive Officer—InnerCity Weightlifting
InnerCity Weightlifting is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to reduce gun violence by amplifying the voice and agency of people who have been most impacted by systemic racism and mass incarceration. At InnerCity Weightlifting, individuals are elevated as experts in fitness and the social issues they’ve lived creating a culture and community in which power dynamics are flipped, social capital is bridged, and new leaders emerge in the fight to combat long-standing inequities.
How has business changed since the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic?
We’ve been doing extremely well during this challenging time. This hasn’t been a maintenance year for us – we’ve grown over 40%. Through virtual classes, we’ve been able to satisfy our community’s need for group connection and activity. We’re even using an unused section of the gym to create a new studio space to support our virtual coaching and grow our platform.
Do you have any wisdom you’d like to share with the Kendall community?
In businesses, CEOs are, at best, responsible for 17% of companies’ successes which means the majority of business successes depend on teams. Our growth this year is because everyone stepped up to make it work. Early on we talked about how we were going to be together to support each other and uncover opportunities to grow and change. As James Baldwin said, “An identity would seem to be arrived at by the way in which the person faces and uses his experience.” It’s important to remember that in this incredibly challenging year, we’re reshaping our identity—by how we respond and how we grow in the face of a global pandemic that has exposed longstanding inequities and systemic racism in this country.
As a peer leader in this fall’s Inclusion Drives Innovation program, what are your ambitions for how the community will activate our collective diversity and inclusion priorities?
My hope is that through this program we can take an honest look at how we got to where we are today and that we can shift as a society to valuing people. To destroy the racial caste systems that have endured and continue to exist in this country.
Meet Jeremy Bluestein—General Manager, Formaggio Kitchen Kendall
What makes your days brighter?
Every day someone comes back in who we haven’t seen in months! A few weeks ago we saw the return of a dear Kendall friend, who is a devoted fan of our gazpacho. Everyone is genuinely concerned about how we’re doing and I consider us lucky. We’ve been open, we have customers and products—not always what we planned, but better than where we’ve been.
What are you doing to be creative?
At the start of COVID-19, we looked for ways to take our engagement with customers and neighbors to the next level. We chose to take our partnership with Lamplighter virtual. We paired wines with cheese and asked people to connect with us on Zoom three to four times a week–it was a really great way to connect with customers and neighbors.
How has your store’s business model adapted to meet the demands of COVID-19?
We had to shift the way we do business. Where we used to encourage folks to come in and linger, we now are trying to make that happen over the phone and social media. This took a while, but our curbside staff has found a way to make “browsing” a conversation starter with customers. This has allowed us to track purchases in a new way. Now someone can say, “I love what I had last week,” and we can suggest things that are similar, but different to build a meaningful dialogue and foster stronger relationships.
Meet Vanessa Brown—Chief People Officer, CIC
How will this program change the way we learn and talk about diversity, equity, and inclusion?
There is space and learning for everyone—and you should be here. Inclusion Drives Innovation creates an opportunity for executives to get closely involved with diversity, equity, and inclusion work. There is so much space for peer understanding, including at the C-suite level, so that we may collectively build more effective business models and department goals—an area as important as finding talent.
What parts of the program do you think participants will find most helpful?
This program has all the elements—and the combination will work! The facilitators will be important to move conversations along and help small groups reach their goals. This program will be meaty and will get personal and emotional. Having facilitators will encourage that type of sharing while keeping the cohort moving forward to create sustainable change in our organizations.
Meet Tarikh Campbell—Diversity & Inclusion Business Program Manager, Microsoft
What excites you most about Inclusion Drives Innovation?
The agenda for Inclusion Drives Innovation, and the course content, is all about personal learning and understanding the traditions that drive systematic thinking. This program will move the business community into action, not just drive individual impact.
How will this program change the way we learn and talk about diversity, equity, and inclusion?
What’s different about this course is that the structure is split between large and small facilitated settings. The self facilitation skills and peer-led engagement is significant to the overall course. Participants will be empowered to lead their peers and serve as facilitators at their own organizations using the tools they’ll learn at Inclusion Drives Innovation.
Meet Chef Andy Husbands— Owner, Smoke Shop BBQ
Tell us about your staff.
Staff is everything. I have been in the restaurant industry for a long time and something I’ve valued and learned along the way is it is all about the team. They’re doing as good as can be and we’re happy to be back together again.
How did your collaboration with Joanne Chang at Flour come to fruition?
Joanne and I were texting about the state of the restaurant industry (and world), and we decided to jump on the phone to talk about how we could help. We decided to partner with Flour and Smoke Shop BBQ boxes for weekend customers. All the money made would go toward employees and next week’s meal expenses. This creative collaboration gave us real practice for the transition back to reopening.
How can the community best help the restaurant industry?
There’s not going to be a lightning bolt, we just need to keep our heads down and work together to survive this. There’s legislation in place right now to unite and support the restaurant community, any calls or emails to your elected officials to support us would be greatly appreciated. We want to see our brothers and sisters in the small business community survive. From hairdressers and nail salons to local restaurants, it’s going to take everything and everybody to get through this. Most of all, continue to support us in a way that feels right for you.
Meet Noelani Gabriel—Director of Family and Community Engagement, Community Charter School of Cambridge
What excites you most About Inclusion Drives Innovation?
The most exciting thing about Inclusion Drives Innovation is the balance this program brings by combining academic learning (through readings and lectures) with cohort experience. I have found it is critical to learn in the context of relationships–the way that peers can support one another and push each other to their learning edges. Inclusion Drives Innovation’s balanced approach toward training participants real-time will help our community push to the next level and take the next steps in creating an inclusive and socially just workplace.
How will leaders and managers benefit from this program?
The benefit for leaders and HR professionals is included in the title of this program–inclusion will drive innovation. We have a moral imperative to contribute positively to social and racial justice in this country and world. The impact of this program and work goes beyond relationships with colleagues to employee relationships with their company. Ideally, everyone feels empowered to bring their full self to work every day.
Meet Andrea Windhausen—Community Manager, BioMed
Tell us about your latest mural space?
Last year we commissioned Adam O’Day to complete the vent shaft in front of Evoo, which was a great local artist partnership. Now, we are looking for new local artists for our second (and final) vent shaft in Canal District Kendall. This is the perfect time for artistic expression and a fun way to welcome life back to the neighborhood. Local artists are in crisis and this is a great way to support this important community. The deadline for proposals for this space is Monday, August 24.
What makes this piece special?
Kendall has some great public art pieces already, but this new installation is even more important when you think about its location right next to the 585 Third Street Project. This anticipated large scale arts and culture center and green space will transform the Canal District into a destination–this art piece will reflect what’s coming to Kendall and help enliven the neighborhood.
Meet Pamela Greenley—Environment, Health & Safety Office Director, Draper
As an essential business, how have you responded to the challenges of protecting employees?
Being a major defense operator for the government, private industry and academic sectors, Draper has maintained operations throughout the pandemic. Our response was quick. To protect employees and ensure business continuity, company leadership formed a COVID Task Force that has continued to meet daily and implement safety measures that have become standard: thermal temperature self-checks, safety posters and signage, mandatory mask-wearing, social distancing, disinfection stations on every floor, more-frequent cleaning of high-traffic public spaces, and much more. Our experience has lessons for others laying the groundwork for the day when employees return to their facilities in force.
What were some challenges facing Draper employees?
Employees, of course, rarely sit in one place all day. Because the pandemic has focused attention on people movement, Draper has developed a track-and-trace algorithm, powered by artificial intelligence, which management uses to understand day-to-day trends and crunch the data further for its safety forecast. The goal is to maintain the headcount of employees onsite at a number that meets the needs of the business (currently about 400) but avoid too many people in the building. Another benefit from this algorithm is that we will know immediately where confirmed COVID-19 cases are and who has been exposed.
What sources have informed Draper’s pandemic protocols and best practices?
Draper developed its pandemic protocol in part by adopting guidelines from local authorities in Cambridge and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, International Facilities Management Association, and the National Restaurant Association. Employees have also shared their own suggestions, which has led to the installation of Plexiglass panels between lab personnel and implementing staggered shifts. Anyone working in an open floor office can understand the challenge.
Meet Kent Kunkel—Vice President & General Manager, Turner Construction
What excites you about Inclusion Drives Innovation?
I think that people very much want to learn more about and be effective in this space. I feel like things have changed so much in even the past two months. We’ve evolved beyond needing to just meet previous goals laid out by our companies–this is a personal mission as well. People are personally being activated and want to educate themselves more about the gap in racial equity-–as individuals and leaders, it’s time to be more aware and take additional actions.
How will this program change the way we learn and talk about diversity, equity, and inclusion?
It will take talking about race as a business community not just individual companies to create real change. The drive to reach diversity, equity, and inclusion goals is different now, and creating opportunities for real equity provides the most critical value. This is an inspired moment for us to collectively build better tools and practices.
Meet Nicole Liu—Founder, VESTER Cafe
“Being a resident of the Cambridge community, I take great pride in Kendall’s innovative spirit and focus on addressing the challenges facing the world. As a female, minority small business owner, I love being a member of the Kendall community. Customers have become friends and I want them to know that, as an entrepreneur, I won’t give up on them. We’re all in it to win it and Kendall will continue to thrive and embrace opportunities to be strong. VESTER Cafe will continue to bring small luxuries to their everyday routines and pivot to support our customers.”
Meet David Downing—Managing Director, Leasing & Retail Strategy, Graffito.
What is important to you now that wasn’t at the start of COVID-19?
I’ve gained a great deal of perspective since the start of COVID-19. It’s been heart-wrenching to watch the small business community struggle to stay afloat. Many of these entrepreneurs I’ve known for 10+ years and their futures remain very uncertain. Our local communities are more fragile than one ever could have imagined.
Spending more time with my 3-year old daughter has been another highlight for me. The small gains she’s making each day feel like major accomplishments. It’s pretty special and provides a needed relief valve from the chaos.
How are you using this moment to advance work that is important to you?
My normal day job has literally been thrown out the window. There won’t be many retail leasing transactions in 2020, so I’ve really tried to channel my time and energy into supporting our clients and the small business community through the sharing of information and resources. Now, more than ever, the Graffito team is committed to facilitating vibrant retail communities that include arts, culture, food, services, etc.
What’s the most inspiring example of leadership you’ve seen since the start of COVID-19?
As the novel coronavirus hit our doorstep in early to mid-March, I can remember dozens of Kendall Square restaurants and retailers making the tough decision to close their doors and lay-off their entire staff without the benefit of knowing the real health risks, economic impacts, and the future of their businesses. It was a complete leap of faith and took enormous courage to make these types of decisions.
Harry Gerard—Senior Associate, Operations, LabCentral
Meet Harry Gerard, Senior Associate, Operations, LabCentral. LabCentral is a first-of-its-kind shared laboratory space designed as a launchpad for high potential life sciences and biotech startups. It offers fully permitted laboratory and office space for as many as 60 startups comprising approximately 200 scientists and entrepreneurs.
“Creating collaborative environments is part of our DNA. We have a strong culture of proactivity and we’ve built the muscles that allow us to communicate effectively with our community during this time. We err on the side of over-communication, especially around safety policies to ensure we can continue the critical work happening here. We’ve also reinforced that collaborative spirit with what we call a “culture of care” by encouraging folks to assume the best of others and treat each other with compassion and kindness, and through offering programming with a focus on mindfulness.”
Jacob Becraft—Co-Founder & CEO, Strand Therapeutics
Co-founded by MIT biological engineers, Strand Therapeutics is an early-stage biotechnology company that delivers revolutionary therapies for patients around the world through genetically programmed mRNA.
Is COVID-19 reshaping public perception of the biopharmaceutical industry?
The collectivism of the biotech community is inspiring. Media cycles have been tough on biotechs and the pharmaceutical industry. With this experience, we’re seeing up close just how important our community’s work is. When therapies are tucked away in corners of hospitals treating sick people, it’s not immediately obvious what we’re doing or creating.
How are your scientists doing right now?
Our Strand community cares about patients and public health. Our scientists are doing all they can to help—and there’s a lot of excitement to do something. We all hope that what we’re working on is important. With a massive threat like COVID-19, the things we’re making can be most impactful and that’s a fulfilling process. This is an amazing time to witness.
Meet Duong Huynh, Project Manager, Leggat McCall Properties
For over 50 years, Leggat McCall Properties (LMP) has been a leading provider of real estate development, spearheading large-scale development projects like 40 Thorndike, the former East Cambridge courthouse.
“As a Cambridge/Somerville resident for over 10 years, I feel the hurts of our community so acutely right now. I was walking through my neighborhood the other day and saw the owners of a new neighborhood restaurant struggling in front of their laptops. We must ask ourselves: how do we conduct our daily lives before a vaccine is ready in a way that can prop each other up? What will our future city look like without mom-and-pops? And, how will we support the survivors? Right now we collectively must survive before we thrive.”
Meet Eli Feldman—General Manager, Shy Bird
Shy Bird has remained open throughout the pandemic collaborating with other restaurants by offering barbecue kits, cocktail mix, and other creative offerings for hungry customers.
“It’s definitely been an interesting and challenging time here in the Square, especially for retail and restaurant businesses. But it’s also been a time for creativity and perseverance–two things that we think really embody the culture of Kendall Square. For us that’s meant, serving thousands of front line worker meals, new products like our SB Dunks, and now using our takeout and delivery platforms to take and match donations to support the Black Lives Matter movement. We look forward to seeing everyone in the Square soon.”
Meet Lee McGuire—Chief Communications Officer , Broad Institute
Fellow KSA Members,
It was wonderful to connect with many of you, albeit virtually, at last week’s Annual Meeting: Kendall Together. The experience (and especially the remarks from Mayor Siddiqui, Danielle Allen, C.A. and Sarah) reminded me that our vibrant, mission-driven community matters more now than ever before.
We like to say Kendall Square is “the most innovative square mile on the planet.” Over the last few months, the team at the KSA has worked to recreate the remarkable proximity that fuels Kendall Square, even when we’re physically distant.
I’m grateful for their efforts and am honored to continue to work with them and all of you as the incoming Chair of the KSA Board of Directors. We’re fortunate to have C.A. leading this exceptional team with vision, urgency, and purpose; a talented Board that reflects a diverse set of voices across Kendall; member organizations leading the crucial work ahead; and we will long benefit from the last four years of Sarah’s expert guidance and relentless optimism!
At the Annual Meeting, Mayor Siddiqui urged all of us to unite behind the work of “creating new networks.” As a community, we can only be successful if we build networks that include everybody, across many perspectives, all taking coordinated and sustained action to overcome the inequities that drive inequality.
This year the KSA is helping our members drive essential diversity, equity, and inclusion strategies. We hope you’ll take part in our Inclusion Drives Innovation (IDI) initiative: a professional development program, led by a professional facilitator, to offer a practical, tactical approach to listening, learning, identifying, and scaling up DEI best practices that have meaningful impact.
Finally, please consider donating to the Mayor’s Disaster Relief Fund, which so far has helped more than 1,400 Cambridge families navigate financial hardship as a result of the pandemic, regardless of immigration status.
I look forward to partnering with you in 2020 as we push the boundaries of what’s possible in Kendall Square and beyond.
Meet Jimmy Liang—Founder, CEO, & Chef, JP Fuji Group
How are you reimagining the way your restaurants will do business?
Without a vaccine or herd immunity, we will all have to approach reopening in a careful and thoughtful manner. No one knows what the effects of COVID-19 truly are yet. How will it affect jobs? How will it affect consumer confidence? How will it affect the overall economy? I have three restaurants open right now. We are doing takeout and delivery only. We are doing contactless food service.
What’s keeping your team going?
Thankfully my core team and I have a shared vision. We all still believe in our business. We all believe in humanity. For the time when we closed, we worked to help our staff with translation, unemployment, and just overall navigating through the pandemic. We also worked to donate meals, and masks to front line workers. We all wanted to help support the workers that have kept America going. We all believe in leaving every place we find just a little better than we first found it. It is important to keep doing.
What are your hopes for when we reopen local businesses?
I hope all businesses will survive this pandemic. It is vital to our economy that Main Street businesses keep going. I hope for life to go back to normal as we reopen.
Meet City of Cambridge Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui
She spoke at our 12th Annual Meeting on Tuesday, June 9th.
What’s driving you right now?
The realities of two simultaneous pandemics are driving me to action right now: COVID-19 and racism. In both instances, I am driven by the needs of our constituents. I want everyone to feel safe. As local leaders, we are capable of real change within our communities on both fronts. For COVID-19, we saw an opportunity to help Cambridge residents by re-launching the Mayor’s Disaster Relief Fund, we opened a temporary emergency shelter for our homeless residents, provided universal and neighborhood specific COVID-19 testing, and my Office launched Mental Health Mondays to address mental health during COVID-19 and the resources available to help. For the pandemic of racism, I’m driven by the energy throughout the country demanding justice, accountability, and reform. To address the community’s concerns, I and the Cambridge Police Department will be hosting a virtual town hall on Thursday, June 11th.
How have you adapted your leadership to meet the demands of COVID-19?
Addressing COVID-19 in Cambridge has required me to be a flexible leader. Since the middle of March, every day has been different and presented new challenges and opportunities. The pandemic has also required my leadership to focus on the long-term effects of COVID-19 – the effects on our education system, small businesses, and housing. Everyone in the City had to adapt quickly, and my job is to make sure that as things start opening again, that we have solutions to help people get back on their feet and are not left behind.
Meet Lindsay Crockett—Associate Manager, Communications, & Design, LabCentral
LabCentral is a first-of-its-kind shared laboratory space designed as a launchpad for high potential life sciences and biotech startups. It offers fully permitted laboratory and office space for as many as 60 startups comprising approximately 200 scientists and entrepreneurs.
What’s an inspiring story you’ve heard from the LabCentral community recently?
I’ve been inspired by the teams who are pivoting their diagnostic, therapeutic, vaccine and other technology platforms to address COVID-19 challenges. One example: alumni company Aldatu Bioscience was able to create a testing platform for COVID-19 that directly enabled Massachusetts hospitals to ramp up on-site testing.
How is COVID-19 making you think differently about your work?
Now more than ever it’s apparent how important it is for LabCentral to act as a platform for amplifying the great science happening in our communities. This all goes back to our main mission of fostering the early stage ideas that address the biggest challenges in human health. It’s COVID-19 now, but who’s to say what the next big issue that needs tackling will be? Continuing to support science is essential.
Meet Emma Lees, Vice President, Oncology Discovery & Site Head, Bristol Myers Squibb Kendall Square
What has been the biggest takeaway for the biopharmaceutical community from COVID-19?
We know that now, more than ever, responding to this crisis requires partnership across the global biopharmaceutical community. Among other efforts, we have identified approximately 1,000 compounds in our discovery library that we are making available to collaborators for screening for potential treatments for COVID-19.
Are you working on a COVID-19 therapy?
We are evaluating certain medicines in our portfolio that could have an impact on the inflammatory immune response associated with COVID-19 and potentially be included in near-term clinical trials and are more committed than ever to our mission of providing life-saving medicines to patients who depend on us during this pandemic.
How is your team doing?
Our team in Cambridge has shown great agility in adapting to the current remote working environment, utilizing all tools available to ensure that our research efforts can continue with as little disruption as possible. We know that the team is eager to return to the labs, but until that time, our work will continue with the same sense of urgency and dedication that has always been at the heart of our mission.
Meet Aoife Brennan, M.B., Ch.B., CEO, Synlogic
Synlogic works at the intersection of biology and engineering to pioneer the application of synthetic biology to design living therapeutics programmed to treat disease in new ways.
“Last month, our Chief Medical Officer, Richard Riese, M.D., Ph.D., who has a background in intensive care, announced he was going back to Brigham and Women’s Hospital to work directly with local COVID-19 patients. The hands-on insights that Richard has shared with the broader team about what front-line workers and patients are experiencing has provided so much motivation and helpful information to our team, and we have rolled up our sleeves to advance our own drug therapy work.”
Meet Chandra Ramanathan, Global Head, Pharma R&D Open Innovation, Bayer
How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way we look at pharmaceutical companies?
The COVID-19 crisis has shown us much about our society, not the least of which is exactly how critical health and nutrition are, in times both normal and extraordinary. This experience has given new importance to Bayer’s vision: “Health for all, hunger for none.” And in order to achieve this vision, we have truly showcased our flexibility as a company and an industry, changing the way in which we work, on multiple levels, throughout our sites. I also believe that this pandemic has highlighted to our society the importance of collaboration. This crisis has presented challenges that individual companies cannot fix. As a result, biotech companies are now partnering with the government to make new public/private partnerships which will help get us the vaccines and therapies needed now and for a healthier future.
Why is Kendall Square still such a valuable location for an international pharmaceutical company like Bayer?
The reasons for Bayer’s presence in Kendall are just as compelling now as they were prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The intellectual capital and entrepreneurial spirit of this community, as well as the power of its advocates like Kendall Square Association and MassBio, as well as the strong network of hospitals, reinforces our mission and our need to build a healthier, global future. This area is unlike any other in the United States, and its unique qualities make it a great addition to the list of communities Bayer calls home.
Whose leadership style inspires you right now?
Amid the backdrop of the COVID-19 crisis, some of the greatest examples of leadership I have seen have been exhibited by those who are leading by example. As I have watched healthcare providers, first responders, essential workers, and others on the front lines who are responding to this pandemic, I have been inspired to ask myself “What more can I do to support my community and others beyond my work?” We all talk about mission; what lies before us today is an opportunity to live our mission.
Meet Felicia Jadczak, CEO & Co-Founder, She Geeks Out.
She Geeks Out’s mission is to educate, promote, and support diverse and inclusive companies and organizations by taking a holistic approach to fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace.
How has COVID-19 impacted the way She Geeks Out operates?
Remote work is not equivalent to virtual work. A lot of us are working remotely, but that doesn’t mean it serves as a “normal” work environment. The challenges we’re experiencing are nothing like any of us have ever seen in our lives. The shift online has brought more opportunities for accessible events, programming, content, and communications. What’s really been great is that we’re now learning to scale beyond Boston with all the look and feel of She Geeks Out programming–we’re reaching a lot more people than we would have a few months ago.
How has DEI work changed during COVID-19?
One of the tensions that sits at the heart of DEI work, is doing impactful work while wearing a business hat. Business goals are not always completely in line with DEI goals, and how do you continue to support DEI when you don’t have any budget? We’re learning that there is so much value in being there for people. Every email and call is an empathetic opening—even with strangers. As a small business, we’re dealing with a lot of challenges, but feel optimistic about how we are reframing 2020 from an anticipated growth year to a survival year—we’re doubling down on supporting each other.
How are your clients doing?
The value of community and bringing people together has always been top of mind and is at the heart of everything we do. Now we must double down on how we can help people. This extends beyond our community side and includes the corporate training side of our work. A lot of our clients have had to hit pause on programming to make space for more vulnerable conversations.
Ceasar McDowell—Professor of Practice of Civic Design MIT
Meet Ceasar McDowell, Professor of Practice of Civic Design MIT. Ceasar served as the leader of the Kendall Square Association’s 2019 Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Learning Community.
“We all need things like access, security, connections, and mastery to sit at the forefront of society, but the absence of any one of these things will move any of us to the margins. This leads us to ask two critical questions: What is the future of America? And, do I have a place in this future? I am developing a national campaign called America’s Path Forward to create a space to connect over a facilitated dialogue about these questions and shared experiences. Now, more than ever, we need to connect and find ourselves in rooms with people you wouldn’t otherwise interact with.”
Meet Tara Clark—Vice President, Commercial, and Corporate Officer, Draper
As a Department of Defense contractor, Draper’s work involves many classified and non-classified projects in the service of national security and national defense. With many employees in the Cambridge office as essential lab personnel, Draper leaders have been navigating safe return-to-work protocols and procedures.
“We began a very controlled ‘bring back’ beginning the week of March 30 for all employees who must come to the office to fulfill their duties. We’re taking many precautions and have rolled out new protocols to ensure safety. But because employees’ safety comes first, Draper is offering several options for folks who need to be in Kendall, but still feel uncomfortable due to their personal situations.”
Michael Dawson—CEO & Co-Founder, Innovators with Purpose
Meet Michael Dawson, CEO & Co-Founder, Innovators with Purpose. Innovators for Purpose (iFp) is a Cambridge based nonprofit that is reimagining STEM education using a hands-on multidisciplinary approach to produce a more inclusive talent pool.
How are young people feeling right now?
Across the board, our students are really nervous. We’ve had several conversations, especially around the postponement of classes, and while they agree with the Governor’s decision from a public health standpoint– they are still struggling with unstructured time and missing school. After several weeks of adjusting, we are all trying to remain productive. However, I am extremely concerned with how students will make up three months of learning loss especially in math and science. We emphasize that our tech and science students take calculus before graduating high school. Making up for lost time while staying on track is challenging for some.
What can we do as a community to support and inspire these students?
We’ve been hosting a bi-weekly virtual speaker series to engage students in thoughtful dialogues with Cambridge-based innovation professionals. Previous conversations have included teams from MIT, Lemelson-MIT, Google and Lesley University. Our students would be thrilled to have an opportunity to interface with the people from our community developing vaccines and therapies on the front lines of COVID-19.
What are educational institutions learning from this experience?
Unfortunately, we’re learning that some students are being left behind. Equal access to high speed internet is a large part of the problem. We are an extremely hands-on learning organization and we are pushing Zoom harder than most. A few days ago, several of our students could not fully participate due to bandwidth related internet issues. The younger generation needs more than Zoom online lectures to stay engaged in learning. How might we address the social emotional aspects? We must get more creative in our teaching approaches.
To get involved in an Innovators with Purpose Speaker Series please email Michael Dawson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meet Sarah MacDonald—Executive Director, Life Science Cares
An organization that brings together biopharma executives and employees to fight poverty in the community, Life Science Cares has raised over $670,000 in grant funding to help nonprofits continue their mission driven work amidst COVID-19.
“Hi Kendall Square community, it’s Sarah MacDonald from Life Science Cares. We have pivoted from our usual support of nonprofits fighting poverty in our community, to a COVID-19 response, working to connect Life Science companies with organizations that are responding to the need for food, shelter, medical supplies—anything we can do to help. I’m so motivated to see how creative, flexible, and willing to take risks our companies are when it comes to helping their neighbors. I’m looking forward to the time where we can connect again and I’ll see you via Zoom soon.”
Many KSA members have already contributed to the LSC COVID-19 Response Fund such as Moderna, Alnylam, Takeda, Sanofi, IPSEN, and Biogen. These funds benefit local nonprofits like Circle of Hope, College Bound Dorchester, Home for Little Wanderers, Household Goods, More Than Words, Waltham Fields Community Farm, and many more!
Meet Tim Rowe—Founder & CEO, CIC.
Tell us about life at the CIC right now.
COVID-19 has made CIC feel like an early stage startup again. I remember this feeling when everything was a question mark. Startups are constantly coming up with ideas to solve basic problems and just trying new approaches.
How are you engaging your team is tackling these problems?
We have delegated little bits of this creative endeavour to every part of the company. We are working to make our centers touchless and are asking things like, “What does a shared kitchen look like now?” And we are setting the standard that it has to be the best possible kitchen offering in the “next normal.”
Are you reinventing everything right now?
Our approach has been one of rapid evolution as opposed to revolution. We have been busy gathering best practices from other parts of the world, reviewing the latest research about transmission, and looking at what US hospitals are doing today to keep their populations safe. The new safety plan we shared last week was reviewed by 400 members of our team, clients, and outsiders including key partners like MassRobotics and LabCentral.
How does all of this change feel for you and your team?
Pulling all of these new ideas into a single set of decisions has been exciting. Everybody expects you to rethink everything and expects you to do things in ways you’ve never done them before. It’s a unique moment in history when society is given the opportunity and obligation to rethink everything.