Life Science Reps Discuss Development Cycle of Biotech Companies at WBC Event

Four representatives from life science companies in Watertown appeared on the 3rd Annual WBC Life Science Panel (Screenshot from WCA-TV video). The panel was moderated by Merle Kummer of CoLAB. The Watertown Business Coalition’s third annual Life Science Panel featured four people who work at local biotech companies, each of which is at a different stage in its pharmaceutical development. The event took place at the Mosesian Center for the Arts on April 25. Attendees learned that there are 63 life science companies right in Watertown, and that they think being here helps their companies, said WBC Co-President Doug Orifice.

Comprehensive Plan to Include Focus on Local Business, Diversifying New Developments

The revised draft of Watertown’s Comprehensive Plan will include some new additions and points of emphasis about supporting small businesses and seeking to diversify the local economy after the input provided by residents earlier this year. On Thursday afternoon, he Planning Advisory Committee heard about the public input from the open house in March, as well as online surveys and emails sent to the project team. They also learned about the process for the final approval of the Comprehensive Plan. Phil Schaeffing, the project manager with Stantec, said the input came from a room full of people during the March 9 open house at the Watertown Library, which was also attended by several people online. They received both spoken and written comments at the event.

Local Company Visits WHS Class Bearing Gifts & Knowledge of Biotechs

Charlie BreitroseWatertown High School teacher Kelly Hannon works with students in her anatomy and physiology class. A Watertown High School science class recently got a visit from representatives from one of the City’s life science companies, which also provided some donations that will help students learn about the human body. In early April, three employees of Enanta Pharmaceuticals stopped by a WHS anatomy and physiology class to speak to the students about their work. Joyce Sweeney Gibbons told the students that she did not take a direct road to her current position as senior scientist in virology at Enanta. “If you have no idea what you want to do, that’s OK,” Sweeney Gibbons said.

Third Annual Life Science Panel Hosted by Watertown Business Coalition

The Watertown Business Coalition will host the third annual Life Science Panel on April 25 featuring representatives from four local life science companies. The first WBC life science event was held in April 2021 during the virtual days of the pandemic. Last year, the group held an in-person event at Hosmer Elementary School. This year’s event, “Biotech in Our Back Yard,” will be on Tuesday, April 25 at the Mosesian Center for the Arts. The event begins at 5:30, and the panel will run from 6:00-7:00, followed by networking and food provided by Branch Line. 

The moderator will be Merle Kummer, the founder of CoLab which partners life science companies in the City with Watertown High School students to coordinate class visits, field trips and internships.

LETTER: Residents Ask Council to Increase Linkage Fee to $15/Sq. Ft.

Note to reader: There has been a lot of talk recently in Watertown about the need for more affordable housing. One thing everyone in Watertown can do to help build more affordable housing is to attend the City Council Meeting on 4/11 at 7:00 PM and voice their support for proposed linkage fee ordinance that would raise money for affordable housing by applying a modest fee to new large non-residential developments in the city. While there is some debate about the exact fee amount (below is a copy of our letter to the City Council outlining the case for a $15/sqft fee), the most important issue to make sure the linkage fee is implemented as soon as possible, so we do not lose out on any more funds for affordable housing. 

Dear City Council President Sideris and City Councilors Gardner, Feltner, Piccirilli, Izzo, Airasian, Bays, Gannon, and Palomba:

We applaud the City Council’s efforts to promote affordable housing, first by establishing the Watertown Affordable Housing Trust and now by working with our state delegation to establish a linkage fee to directly fund affordable housing development. As the council considers enactment of the linkage fee, we urge the council to adopt a linkage fee of $15 per square foot, which our technical analysis below shows is in line with recent increases in residential construction costs not measured by the original Nexus study published last year. The Nexus study published last April recommended the council consider a linkage fee in the range of $9.44 to $11.12, which balances raising revenue for affordable housing while maintaining Watertown’s competitive position in the commercial (mainly focusing on life sciences) development space.

Record Amount of Grants for Watertown Schools from Life Science Companies

The following information was provided by the Watertown Community Foundation:

The Watertown Community Foundation (WCF) in collaboration with Life Sciences Cares and five Watertown-based life science companies has awarded record setting $45,000 in grants for Watertown Public Schools. Now in its second year, the STEM Fund, continues to build on Watertown Community Foundation’s annual school-based educational grants program to support instruction and learning in and beyond the classroom. Support from five corporate contributors — C4 Therapeutics, Enanta Pharmaceuticals, Kymera Therapeutics, Landmark Bio and Vigil Neuroscience, Inc. — and Life Science Cares, increased the foundation’s capacity to provide greater financial support for science, technology, engineering, and math programming. “With this support, our students are extending what they learn in the classroom by engaging in real science facilitated by experts from the greater Watertown community.  We can bring hands-on programs that spark their curiosity, and the students are excited to find out more.” said Elizabeth Kaplan, Math/Science Coordinator for grades K-7, Watertown Public Schools. This collective giving program also allows companies, leaders, and employees in the burgeoning Watertown life sciences field to learn about Watertown Public Schools and forge deeper relationships with the school STEM community.

OP-ED: How Safe is Watertown from a Bio Lab Emergency? Part 4: Conclusions

By Linda ScottWatertown Resident

A Thank You

First, if you have been following this series, you know that many people have dedicated their time to helping Watertown residents understand this issue. I thank Provisional Chief Nicholson, Director of Health Larry Ramdin, industry professionals, including Heather McManus, for context on the biotech industry, and the volunteer BioSafety Committee for literally showing us how it’s done. I entered this process with some serious questions about how we were handling our new (and potentially dangerous) corporate neighbors. I have learned that the Fire Department, with the help of a new Lab Safety Fire Captain is “on it” and that the BioSafety Committee, with their tremendous knowledge in the Life Sciences field is tirelessly committed to making this new venture work and work safely for Watertown, despite persistent information sharing problems with the Health Department. (See BioSafety Meeting Feb.

OP-ED: How Safe is Watertown from a Bio Lab Emergency? Part 3

CSET, Georgetown University

By Linda ScottWatertown Resident

In my interview with Mr. Larry Ramdin, Watertown’s Director of Public Health, I focused mainly on the nuts and bolts of permitting and keeping track of bio labs entering Watertown as a safety issue. After our telephone conversation, I followed up by sending this interview to Mr. Ramdin to review. I’d like to thank Mr. Ramdin for his input. At my request, Mr. Ramdin sent me the most recent list of bio labs in Watertown. Although the list contained 63 separate entries, at least 14 had the same company name as another, which Mr. Ramdin explained in some cases indicated two divisions of the same company.