Get to Know Watertown Life Sciences in a Virtual Panel of Biotech Execs – Submit Your Questions

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Leaders of Watertown’s newest industry will be talking about their companies and the influx of life science into Town during the Watertown Business Coalition’s virtual event.

A recent survey found about 50 biotech firms located in Watertown of various sizes and stages of development. Get to know life sciences from a panel of five executives from four life science companies located in Watertown. The event will be held on Thursday, April 29 from 4-5 p.m. To RSVP click here.

The WBC’s Life Science Panel will include: Joanne Kamens, Executive Director of Addgene; Mark Bamforth, Founder, Exec. Chair & CEO of Arranta Bio; Andrew Hirsch, President and Chief Executive Officer of C4 Therapeutics; Kelly Schick, Chief People Officer of C4 Therapeutics and Mary Wadlinger; and SVP & Chief Human Resources Officer at FORMA Therapeutics.

Joanne Kamens, Executive Director of Addgene.

Watertown News reached out to one of the panelists, Addgene’s Kamens, to find out about the biotech company located off Arsenal Street which decided to move to Watertown in 2018.

Q: People in Watertown have seen the recent influx of life science companies, but many do not know exactly what happens in these businesses. What does Adgene specialize in?

A: Addgene is an unusual 501(c)3 nonprofit biotechnology company. We are a clearing house for specific types of materials that scientists use in their research. These materials include plasmids (little circles of engineered DNA), delivery vectors for plasmids and some bacterial lines. Scientists around the world donate their materials to be stored and archived in our repository onsite at LINX Watertown and then they become available for request to scientists everywhere via our e-commerce website. This sounds modest but we are an international powerhouse. We ship over 850 items each day to scientists in 105 countries. Our most recent new country was Madagascar. Addgene’s mission is to accelerate science and along the way the Addgenies delight in helping scientists do their work better with both materials, data and educational resources. As a side note, we have played a role in cures for the pandemic by helping scientists who study the virus that causes COVID-19, SARS-CoV2. Addgene has shipped over 12,000 materials directly useful for this field.

Q: Addgene is one of the tenants of the Linx building off Arsenal Street. How did the company choose to move to that spot, and why do you think Watertown has become the new destination for biotechs?

A: This is Addgene’s 4th location. Our model has proved to be very popular and we’ve seen a lot of growth over the years. Our first 3 facilities were in Cambridge, but we didn’t want to keep moving so looked hard to find a good home into which we could grow. This was not affordable in Cambridge. When our realtors at Cresa showed us the LINX building (it was just a warehouse shell at the time), we started to see the many advantages. We were able to lease much more space for the funds we had available in our nonprofit budget. The location was not far from Cambridge so had minimal or improved commutes for most employees. The area is a desirable one to live in and we thought employees might be happy to live in Watertown and live nearby. The building and grounds are fantastic so it’s really a lovely place to work. This has proved especially helpful this year for our dedicated onsite lab staff who have been working hard onsite since March to make sure all researchers, including those studying COVID, can access our collection. We were also excited about the businesses opening in this area which has finally started to happen and everybody loves being close to Target of course! It’s a lovely, convenient area. Why wouldn’t biotechs want to move here? 

Q: Have you gotten to know Watertown? What are your favorite spots (when not limited by the Pandemic)?

A: The Addgenies are very partial to breakfast and lunch out and local shopping. I’ve been missing fish & chips at Donohue’s pub and all the specials at Red Lentil. I’m a long time fan of the pancakes at the Deluxe Town Diner. I just became a grandmother and I’ve bought an alarming number of items at the Carter’s outlet and other stores in our area. Shout out to the crew at American Cleaners on Arsenal Street because my husband still has to wear fancy shirts to work and I don’t iron. We’re all looking forward to getting back to the office and trying out some of the new places that recently opened.

The event is a partnership between the Watertown Business Coalition and the Watertown Free Public Library. It will be shown on WBC’s Facebook page. If you miss it, the event will be recorded and rebroadcast by Watertown Cable Access (https://wcatv.org/).

Moderator Doug Orifice, co-founder of the Watertown Business Coalition will lead the discussion with the panelists, but he also will take questions from Watertown residents to ask the panelists. To submit a question send an email to: info@watertownbusinesscoalition.com

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