MIT Biotech Group Inspires the Next Generation

The MassBioHQ is thrilled to announce the launch of our new Game Changers Blog Series where we will share the stories of incredible individuals and companies making an impact in the life sciences industry! If you are interested in being interviewed or contributing a guest post to our blog please email lilly.stairs@massbio.org.

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The Beginning

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MIT Biotech Group Co-Founders James W. Weis and Nate Stebbins.

At one of MIT’s recent major career fairs, only 3% of the employers in attendance represented the life sciences. Surprising? Yes, considering that MIT is in the heart of Kendall Square, recently named the number one hub for life sciences in the world. It certainly shocked James W. Weis and Nathan Stebbins, PhD students at the prestigious institution and co-founders of the MIT Biotech Group.

There’s a lot of anxiousness towards careers [you hear statements like] ‘there’s no faculty jobs’ and ‘what’s everyone going to do’. James and I originally started digging around to understand what resources exist at MIT for students that want to get connected to the biotechnology industry and what avenues exist for students who want to be entrepreneurs in the lifesciences. We actually found that MIT students, surprisingly, have a small connection with the outside biotechnology world.” – Stebbins.

About 25% of PhD students at MIT are doing research directly involved in the life sciences and many more are doing tangential work. Weis and Stebbins recognized a need to close the gap between academia and industry at MIT, and decided to take the necessary steps to make it happen. After countless hours of brainstorming and meetings with high level executives from academia and industry, the empowered entrepreneurs launched the MIT Biotech Group in April of this year – with the full support and encouragement of MIT’s administration. Their hard work has paid off. Within a few days of the inaugural email invitation, over 200 students signed up to get a taste of the life sciences industry. The group currently has over 500 members comprised of undergrads, graduates, and PhD students. Read the rest of this entry

Top 5 News: 6/20-6/26

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1) Supreme Court Allows Nationwide Health Care Subsidies – New York Times, 6/25/2015
The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that President Obama’s health care law allows the federal government to provide nationwide tax subsidies to help poor and middle-class people buy health insurance, a sweeping vindication that endorsed the larger purpose of Mr. Obama’s signature legislative achievement.
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View MassBio’s statement on the ruling

2) Three Bay State biotechs go public in IPOs – Boston Globe, 6/26/2015
Seres Therapeutics Inc., a Cambridge biotech developing a new class of drugs to treat infections and metabolic disorders, is set to make its debut as a publicly traded company Friday after raising nearly $134 million in an initial public offering.
The company was one of three Massachusetts life sciences startups that went public this week as the strong IPO market of the past two years extended into mid-2015.
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3) Bristol-Myers is the next big tenant in biotech’s hottest neighborhood – FierceBiotech, 6/26/2015
Bristol-Myers Squibb’s ($BMY) latest R&D reshuffle calls for a consolidated presence in Cambridge, MA’s booming Kendall Square, and the drugmaker has signed on to serve as anchor tenant in the area’s next big research facility, joining Big Pharma’s ongoing colonization of a biotech hotbed.
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4) Interim chief named for Massachusetts Life Sciences Center – Boston Globe, 6/24/2015
The Massachusetts Life Sciences Center board Wednesday named Baker administration economic development official Michael J. Kennealy as interim chief executive of the quasi-public agency that administers state efforts to expand the life sciences sector.
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5) ​​Sen. Warren Holds Roundtable With FDA Acting Commissioner  Framingham Patch, 6/22/15
United States Senator Elizabeth Warren held a roundtable discussion in Boston with U.S. Food and Drug Administration Acting Commissioner Dr. Stephen Ostroff and members of the Massachusetts Medical Device Industry Council (MassMEDIC), on Monday morning, June 22.
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Insider Recap: Lifecycle Massachusetts Takes BIO 2015

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Biotech’s biggest event of the year wrapped up last week. We shared some of the top Massachusetts news stories that came out of the conference on Friday but we wanted to provide some more highlights from the Massachusetts Pavilion.

The #1 Life Sciences Cluster in the World

Get inspired by the impact Massachusetts is making on the world and watch our special Massachusetts Pavilion video featuring industry game changers and Massachusetts’ newly elected Governor Charlie Baker.

Panels

Our Commitment: Highlighting Biotech’s Global Humanitarian Programs
Despite sometimes significant challenges, Massachusetts’ biotechnology companies are on the forefront of offering global humanitarian access programs & conducting international public health research. This panel showcased some of the creative ways our companies go a step above to heal the world.

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Panelists:

  • Caren Arnstein, Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs, Genzyme
  • Robert Lillianfeld, Director of Corporate Relations, Seeding Labs
  • Dr. Deborah Molrine, Deputy Director of Clinical Affairs and Professor of Pediatrics, UMass Medical School
  • Deborah J. Peirce, Director of Global Advocacy Oncology, Baxter

Key takeaway: “If you make the right decision for patients, it will be the right business decision.” – Caren Arnstein on Genzyme Corporation’s philosophy and gold standard. Read the rest of this entry

Special Edition: Top 5 Massachusetts News Stories from BIO 2015

bio 2013 small1) Hospitals to launch web portal to build alliances with industry  Boston Globe, 6/16/15
Massachusetts hospitals and life sciences leaders Tuesday said they will launch a new web portal that will allow companies from around the world to seek alliances with the state’s academic medical centers on research and clinical programs. The portal, called the Massachusetts Clinical Gateway, was set to be unveiled at a Tuesday morning news conference at the Biotechnology Industry Organization’s annual convention here. Making the announcement at the Massachusetts pavilion will be representatives of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, the Conference of Boston Teaching Hospitals, and the University of Massachusetts Memorial Medical Center.
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2) Biotech executives see more targeted drugs, more partnerships  Boston Globe, 6/16/15
Deploying new approaches to battling cancer, drug makers look forward to a future of faster approvals, more combination therapies, more partnerships — and more success.“With more and more drugs, survival will extend,” Axel Hoos, head of immuno-oncology at British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline plc, told a breakfast meeting Tuesday sponsored by the industry website FierceBiotech. Glaxo and other companies represented on a panel here at the Biotechnology Industry Organization’s annual convention said they are developing targeted cancer drugs that attack specific genetic mutations in tumors as well as immune therapies that seek to boost the immune system to fend off cancers.
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3) Chancellor Collins, biotech leaders tout Massachusetts as ‘epicenter of science’ – UMASSMedNow, 6/15/15
Innovative scientists, researchers and biotech leaders from Massachusetts will attend the BIO International Convention in Philadelphia, Penn., this week to showcase how the state became the “epicenter of science.” “One of the things that is so special about Massachusetts is that we have a collaborative gene. We believe in working together,” Chancellor Michael F. Collins says in a video used to highlight the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council.
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4) SIRION Biotech Plans Opening of a New Office in the Boston Area FierceBiotech, 6/17/15
SIRION Biotech, a leading viral vector platform company known for creating high quality viral vector solutions for industry and academic partners, today announced its commitment to open a new office in the vicinity of Boston. The announcement was made during the 2015 BIO International Convention taking place this week in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
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5) Tyrogenex and Xcovery Open New Office in Needham  BusinessWire, 6/18/15
Tyrogenex, a leader in the development of novel kinase inhibitors to target angiogenesis, and Xcovery, a developer of next-generation targeted therapeutics for cancer, today announced the opening of a new office in Needham, Mass., in partnership with the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC) during the Biotechnology Industry Organization’s BIO International convention.
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Top 5 Takeaways from Clinical Trials in the Age of Social Media

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On Thursday, June 11th, MassBio hosted Clinical Trials in the Age of Social Media: Strategies for Increasing Trial Awareness and Patient Recruitment, part 2 of the 4-part Forum #HarnessHCSM series. A full house heard from a diverse panel of industry leaders.

We’ve compiled a list of key takeaways from the event to keep you up to speed on this hot topic!

1) DON’T BE AFRAID
Yes, there is a laundry list of rules and regulations when it comes to social media and engaging with patients but Dawn Fenton, Clinical Operations Lead at Biogen, empowered the audience to be bold.

“We can’t be afraid. We can’t let rules and regulations stop us from using social media to reach patients.”

Bottom line: Know the rules and understand them, but don’t let them stop you from putting the patient first and using social media as an avenue to engage patients on a new level.

2) Social listening is key
Social listening was a big buzzword discussed throughout the entirety of the Forum. Panelists urged the audience to listen to patients on social media to help identify gaps in patient education, avoid search for “unicorn subjects” in clinical trials, find patients who can contribute content and serve as a support system for fellow patients, and to help design a strategy for how to engage with patients.

3) There’s more to social media than Facebook and Twitter
When we hear “social media” our minds often jump right to the most popular social media sites. Social media reaches far beyond Facebook and Twitter and it is important to explore other avenues when it comes to patients and clinical trials. Medical social networking sites are quickly gaining traction such as patientslikeme and My MS Team.

4) “Stop being so clinical!”
“Stop being so clinical!” A valuable exclamation from Sally Okun, Vice President for Advocacy, Policy, and Patient Safety at PatientsLikeMe. Use social listening to understand the way patients talk about their experiences and then use those insights to shape your messaging and better connect with patients.

5) Be transparent
Patients don’t like being kept in the dark. Do your best to help patients to understand how important the integrity of the trial is while also disclosing as much as you can to help them feel in the know. Be honest! Patients will appreciate your candor.

Additional Resources

Want to hear more insight from the Clinical Trials in the Age of Social Media Forum?