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Life Science's New Collaboratory

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There’s a new life sciences corridor being developed to link researchers from Boston to New York, and a new type of lab being built—the $300M (including some operational costs) Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine in Farmington, Conn.—to accommodate their new approach to research.

Life Science's New Collaboratory

The façade is nearly complete and interior work underway for the new 184k SF personalized medicine institute set to open Oct. 7. Here, scientific and computational experts will work with top minds at Harvard, Tufts, and BU; Yale and UConn; and Columbia and Rockefeller universities, says site director Yu-Hui Rogers. (Nobody will be able to agree on what to get for take out dinner though.) Charles Lee, a former director of the Molecular Genetic Research Unit at Brigham and Women’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School, is the JAX GM scientific. The new design and configuration of the lab is “critical” to foster a new, faster way of doing science that leads to personalized therapies for many maladies, including cancer, that are more effective and less damaging. Researchers, once lone eagles, are now team players.

Life Science's New Collaboratory

To build a new “bio sciences eco system” where investigators in different disciplines can collaborate with each other and can easily meet with colleagues in Boston and New York requires a new type of building—a collaboratory— says Tsoi/Kobus principal Rick Kobus whose Cambridge-based firm worked with Conn.-based Centerbrook Architects on the design. Some scientists work in wet labs that put a heavy demand on air handling and other mechanical systems. Computational researchers—computers are their best friend—usually work in “dry labs.” These “very smart people” need some spaces where they can spontaneously interact, he says. (Somewhere between wet and dry, a sauna maybe.)

Life Science's New Collaboratory

Biomedical researchers in New York tend toward theoretical and applied science. In Boston, especially around MIT, they’re more oriented toward engineering and basic science. (Can those two cities agree on anything?) For Rick, who’s been creating life science space for decades, this is the first time his team has designed research space that’s relatively easy to convert from wet to dry labs and back again. In this project of the Jackson Laboratory—a non-profit research institute based in Bar Harbor, Maine—it was especially tricky to handle wet lab hazards such as contaminated air, he says.

Life Science's New Collaboratory

Now that many research processes are automated, investigators can leave their benches more often. At JAX-GM, all investigators can do their paper work in the same dry labs, separated from wet labs by glass partitions. All furnishing, from lab benches to computer work stations, is modular and movable. Technology and science change so fast, that flexibility was a must-have for the new institute, Yu-Hui says. Also critical: state-of-the-art conferencing and teaching areas. Education is critical to JAX’s mission and to making personalized medicine a reality, she tells us.