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MIT hosts celebration of Kendall biotech community

More than 500 leaders from local biotech companies, venture capital firms, industry groups and MIT gathered inside and outside the Whitaker College of Health Sciences and Technology (Building E25) on Aug. 22 to celebrate the Kendall Square biotech community and toast its future success.

The evening event, hosted by the MIT Entrepreneurship Center and the Biomedical Enterprise Program (a new collaboration between the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology and the Sloan School of Management), was conceived as a way to recognize the high density of biotechnology companies in the greater Kendall Square area and to celebrate and reinforce the building of strong academic/business relationships between MIT and the biotech community.

Hundreds of 18-by-24-inch maps of the "Biotech Cluster in Greater Kendall Square" were distributed, showing 74 biotech R&D firms located or soon to be located within a mile of the MIT campus. The map, using data provided by the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, was sponsored by the hosts and 17 corporate and academic organizations.

"MIT has played a leading role in launching the biotechnology enterprise," Frank R. Landsberger, executive director of the Biomedical Enterprise Program (BMP), told the crowd assembled under a large tent on the Whitaker College plaza. "Since 1987, through its Technology Licensing Office, almost 80 biotechnology companies have been founded with licenses to MIT patents.

"We all have come to recognize that the biotechnology industry requires a set of entrepreneurial management skills truly unique to the sector," Landsberger said. In admitting the first class of students to the BMP, "we will be training the next generation of entrepreneurial leaders for the biotechnology industry."

"Through the Cambridge-MIT Institute, the Biomedical Enterprise Program has been involved in curriculum development with its sister program at the University of Cambridge. One consequence of this is that the Biomedical Enterprise Program students will gain critical international insights," said Landsberger.

The past year has been a busy one for Kendall Square, as biotech companies have moved in to fill space previously occupied by Internet startups. In May, Novartis, the Swiss pharmaceutical giant, announced it would be moving its research center from Switzerland into the MIT-owned Technology Square complex in Kendall Square.

President Charles Vest told the crowd, "If Kendall Square and the greater Boston area are to remain at the forefront of the biotech revolution, it is essential that we continue to work closely with each other to build a vibrant and supportive community."

The biotech celebration, conceived by Landsberger and Ken Morse, managing director of the MIT Entrepreneurship Center, was a first step toward bringing people with divergent backgrounds and common purpose together, and fostering the ongoing participation of local firms in the intellectual life of MIT.

Both organizations place a high priority on promoting Cambridge as the world leader in the advancement of biotech research and entrepreneurship. "Our message is simple: If you are serious players in the biotech revolution, you need to have your headquarters or a branch in Kendall Square next to MIT," said Morse.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on August 28, 2002.

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