Wednesday, March 02, 2011
The Future Lives Here - An Inspiring Morning in Kendall Square
I have just returned to my office at the Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC) in Kendall Square after attending an inspiring Annual Meeting of the Kendall Square Association.
What a great way to start the day in the world's most innovative neighborhood. We were reminded during the course of the morning's activities that for almost 400 years, Cambridge and Kendall Square have launched products and services that we use each day - frozen orange juice concentrate, instant coffee, the telephone, the Internet, drugs to address a veritable pharmacopeia of illnesses and conditions. Alexander Graham Bell made the world's first phone call from his place in Boston to Dr. Watson's lab in Kendall Square!
CIC Founder and KSA President, Tim Rowe, kicked off the meeting by painting a broad picture of the opportunities and challenges that face businesses and residents of Kendall Square. He presented the morning's keynote speakers.
The juxtaposition of speakers was as brilliant and stunning as was the beautiful setting in MIT's Media Lab building. We heard from a "big pharma" giant, and then from a brilliant entrepreneur just getting started in the bio-tech world. One could not help but see - in listening to and watching both speakers - a vivid "Show and Tell" for audience members. The message I took away with me was: "This is what we aspire to become and this is how we start out living our dream in Kendall Square."
Among those speaking was Henri Termeer, Founder of Genzyme. Mr. Termeer recently announced an agreement to sell his Cambridge company, Genzyme, for $20.1B. This is a major success story for countless people who suffer from rare diseases that have been cured by Genzyme, and also one of the great entrepreneurial and health sciences successes of Cambridge. Mr. Termeer gave this morning's audience a wonderfully candid peek behind the scenes at what happened over the course of many months in the negotiations between Genzyme and Sanofi Aventis. His main point was that virtually every major world player in innovation feels as if they need to establish a presence in Kendall Square.
We then heard from a remarkable young woman, Elisabet de los Pinos. She is a Spanish entrepreneur who moved her company to Kendall Square (to CIC) in order to be in the world's hub of innovation. She was invited last year to the World Economic Forum and was named by Time Magazine as being behind one of the 10 most promising new innovations in our future: nano-encapsulation for drug delivery. In short, what her technology does is to make it possible for us to use cures that were previously invented but could never be used, because while they cured one part of the body, they killed another. By nano-encapsulating and encoding the capsules properly, these drugs can now be delivered specifically to the places in the body they are meant to cure, bypassing those places they would harm. This opens up large new vistas for medical cures to disease.
The KSA Executive Director, Travis McCready, then gave us a challenge in the form of a "State of Kendall Square" address that also balanced nicely between highlighting the good and illuminating the challenges and responsibilities we face in making Kendall Square truly a world class neighborhood in every dimension.
I left the meeting feeling both inspired and proud to call Kendall Square my professional home.