Harvard’s upper crust and high-profile poltiicans celebrated the official opening of the Harvard Life Lab, a new biotech research and enterprise facility in Allston, with speeches and a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday afternoon.
Speakers at the crowded Harvard Innovation Lab event included University President Drew G. Faust, Harvard Business School Dean Nitin Nohria, and Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh. Massachusetts Congressman Joseph P. Kennedy III and former Massachusetts Governor Deval L. Patrick ’78 also attended.
In her opening remarks, Faust said she found the “aims” of the start-up teams slated to matriculate at the Life Lab—goals ranging from faster DNA sequencing to targeted genome editing to better vaccines—to be “inspiring.” Harvard announced its plans to build the Life Lab in February of this year.
“Life, in short, will be better because of this space and because of the creativity it will spark and the students, faculty, and alumni it will bring together,” Faust said, addressing the nearly 200 Harvard affiliates and local residents who gathered in the i-Lab’s lobby.
The two-story, 15,000-square-foot Life Lab, which cost roughly $17 million to build, features 36 lab benches, fume hoods, tissue culture and microscopy facilities, a private faculty-in-residence lab suite, conference rooms, and co-working spaces to support team planning. The building is now Harvard’s third entrepreneurial center on Western Ave., sitting next to the five-year old i-lab and across the street from the alumni-focused Harvard Innovation Launch Lab opened in 2014.
Construction of the Life Lab, first announced in October, was made possible by a donation from Business School alumnae Judy M. and Stephen G. Pagliuca, for whom the space is now named. Both spoke at Wednesday’s opening ceremony.
Judy Pagliuca said she found the experience “very emotional.”
“I’m not going to use any big words here because I really want to bring this down to an emotional level,” she said. “When you make a donation like this… there’s really primitive feelings that spur you to do it.”
In total, 17 biotechnology ventures, representing eight different Harvard schools, will take up residence at the Life Lab in the coming months, and some have already moved in. Each company went through an intensive application process, which was conducted by a selection committee composed of Harvard faculty and administrators and biotech entrepreneurs.
Business School professor Srikant M. Datar, who helped lead the committee, said he was pleased with the results of its deliberations.
“We really could not have asked or hoped for a stronger cohort of scientists and entrepreneurs to be the first group of individuals to start at the Life Lab,” Datar said.
Walsh echoed Datar’s sentiments, but emphasized that nearly half of the groups had female founders–something he termed “an important stat.”
“We should have a clap for that,” he instructed the audience. “Hopefully that’s a sign of things to come in the coming weeks,” he added, referencing the upcoming presidential election on Nov. 8. His sentiment was met with loud cheers and applause.
Reflecting on the day’s events, Faust said she was optimistic for the future.
“The Life Lab represents some of our greatest hopes for what Harvard can achieve in the years to come,” Faust said. “We are all so pleased today and so very grateful to the Pagliucas for envisioning a future in which all roads lead to Allston.”—Staff writer Hannah Natanson can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @hannah_natanson.
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