Koch Institute Gallery

The Celebration  of Innovation in  Kendall Sq—held on April 29 at  MIT’s David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research-–  definitely lived up to its title.

Among other innovations I’m still celebrating:

  • A university president (Susan Hockfield of MIT) walked over,  introduced herself and actually seemed interested in learning about ME.
  •   21 speakers got through their material in 25 minutes,  total. (Good thing, because the audience of approximately 150 stood, sipping wine, throughout).
  • Living” bronzed” statues of dead inventors Ben Franklin, Ada Lovelace, and Thomas Edison walked silently around the room–stopping, occasionally,  to pose for photos.
The event, sponsored by MIT and the Kendall Square Association,  was  introduced by Sarah Gallop of the MIT Office of Government and Community Relations and KSA.
Here’s a link to a video of the event–which Gallop sent me a few weeks after the event.
 Hockfield, the first speaker,  described some of the 150  new restaurants and corporations now populating the area.
Community leaders, scientists, technologists,  businesspeople and students then  provided brief rundowns on historic and present day scientific, economic,  community,  and  technologic advances associated with Cambridge.
Science 
  • Rudi Belliardi of the Wellington-Harrington Neighborhood Association described the development of polarizing lenses and quinine
  • Daniel Heller, a fellow at the Koch Institute, said that the Robert Langer Lab, where he works, is seeking ways to target cancer using nanotechnology.
  • Barbara Broussard, president of the East Cambridge Planning Team,  spoke about the development of  synthetic penicillin.
  • Noubar Afeyan, chair and co-founder of Joule Unlimited, explained how his company is developing renewable fuels from waste carbon dioxide.

    Tom Waggener, Physioanalytics and Susan Hockfield, MIT

Economic Development 

  • Dan O’Connell, president and CEO of the Mass Competitive Partnership, provided an overview of economic development  in the Kendall Square Area.
  • Alex Laats, partner Commonwealth Capital Ventures, outlined the origins and importance of  the Internet.
  • Bill Aulet, managing director of the MIT Entrepreneurship Center, spoke about  the rise of entrepreneurs.
  • Yi-Han Ma, co-president of the MIT Sloan Venture Capital and Private Equity Club, went into the growth of the venture capital industry.
  • Tim Rowe, Founder and CEO of  the Cambridge Innovation Center, and President of the Kendall Square Association, described the area as a “Startup Hive.”

Community 

  • Cambridge Mayer David Maher introduced the topic of  “community;”  Margaret Drury, the Cambridge City Clerk, described her pride at officiating at the nation’s first same-sex marriage ceremony.
  • John Durant, Director of the MIT Museum, told us about the upcoming weekend’s Cambridge Science Festival.
  • Program directors Rebecca Gallo and Caitlin McCormick, described their work at the East End House;  children Selena, Nubian, Ralph and Christelle acted out roles to bring out the current and historic importance of the Margaret Fuller Neighborhood House to the city’s immigrant population.
  • Jane Hirschi, Executive Director of CitySprouts, explained the importance of school gardens and kids growing food.
Technology
  • Travis McCready, Executive Director of the Kendall Square Association, described a recent low-tech camping experience in order to emphasize  the growing role of technology in daily life.
  • Gavin Kleespies, Executive Director of the Cambridge Historical Society–which provided historical background for the event– spoke on the development of microwave Radar
  • Susan Athey, Harvard Economics Professor and Microsoft’s Chief Economist, described the growth of Internet search–confessing that, perhaps for obvious reasons,  she is biased toward Microsoft’s Bing.
  • Roscoe Thomas, the Area IV Neighborhood Coordinator, told of  the trials and tribulations experienced by Elias Howe before he became  the first in the US to patent a sewing machine.
  •  Rod Brooks,  MIT Professor Emeritus  and Founder of Heartland Robotics and iRobot, spoke on the past and future of robotics.
After the event,  walking by sidewalk art by Robert Guillemin,   the Whitehead Institute, Novartis, and Amgen on the way  to my car,  I felt energized by the creativity, forward-looking spirit and excitement of the gathering. And I mused at how far Kendall Square has come since I first visited there in the 1970s–when it was inhabited mainly by run down factories and empty lots.
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Xconomy  senior correspondent and  San Francisco editor Wade Roush says  he’s done with news embargoes.

In a column entitled, “The News Embargo Is Dead. Tech Crunch Killed It. Let’s Move On,”  he writes that he’ll no longer agree to being “pre-briefed” by tech companies or  PR firms with the understanding that he’ll wait to publish until the stories are  made public— because he’s been burned one too many times.

What happened?  TechCrunch went to press early with an embargoed story that he was also covering–making him look like an “also ran.”

In an email,  Roush explained:
TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington…[claims]  that TechCrunch has never broken an embargo. His implication was that in the cases where TechCrunch seemed to be publishing stories before the agreed embargo time, they’d been authorized to do so by companies or their PR firms who gave them an earlier embargo. Of course, an embargo where one party gets special treatment is no embargo at all, and if Arrington is to be believed, then the PR community (and not just Arrington himself, who long ago proclaimed “Death to the Embargo”) shares in the blame for the breakdown of the embargo as a reliable way to manage news. It’s a rotten system that I’m happy to walk away from.

Speaking as a former journalist who now works in PR,  I am of two minds (or more).
Certainly,  as a journalist, I didn’t liked being “scooped”  when I honored an embargo. And no reporter wants to feel that s/he is being used  to manage a company’s image. But, in covering health and science for national public television,  I much appreciated  having time to fully  understand a development before I wrote about it.
From the PR side– I use embargoes because they  allow me  to research individual story angles  rather than blast out the same pitch, to all reporters, all at the same time.   True, those  blasts can occasionally  lead to a rush of interview requests—but sometimes you get so many that busy scientists or execs can’t respond to them all–leaving some journalists empty-handed.  And, with today’s 24-hour news cycles, too many important stories are hastily written and errors  are made.
I might mention that  it’s not only journalists who get burned:   I once sent an embargoed announcement to a reporter who  did an end run–going to someone for information who was not in the know.  The reporter beat out the pack but got the story wrong,  pissed off his competitors,  my client, and me.  He no longer gets advance notice of my clients’ upcoming news.
I do think it’s great that Roush is NOT saying that he’ll knowingly break embargoes. Like  Wall Street Journal reporters,  he simply asks that sources not send him embargoed stories; he’ll wait to the info goes public,  then decide what to do.
Will he  still accept “exclusives”–in which a source promises that only he, Roush, will have the story, so that he can break it first?
Yes, I still love exclusives, as long as they turn out to be truly exclusive.  If I learned later that a PR firm had given the same story to someone else, then that would destroy my trust in that firm and I’d stop working with them.
I do think it’s about trust in the end. 

From all sides of my mind—I definitely agree.  Trust is key.
–Anita M. Harris
Anita M. Harris is president of the Harris Communications Group, a  public relations and marketing communications firm located in Cambridge, MA. 


Earlier this month, I attended  a great MIT Enterprise Forum  discussion on new medical devices designed to provide low cost tests far from laboratories or medical centers, in the developing world.

At the meeting, held by the Forum’s Health Care and Life Science Special Interest Group at the British Consulate in Cambridge,  former Mass Biotechnology Council  President Una Ryan described the paper-based  medical testing technology that her new nonprofit enterprise,  Diagnostics for All  (DFA), has licensed from the George Whitesides Lab, at Harvard.

The technology allows bodily fluid to accumulate in patterns on postage-stamp sized pieces of paper–to be used for  multiple  tests simultaneously. DFA’s first project, funded in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is a liver function test to monitor the effects of drugs for HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, to help manage viral hepatitis. Such tests, which ordinarily require laboratory evaluation, will first be sold in convenience stores in Africa at a cost of approximately ten cents each, Ryan said.

Bill Rodriguez, CEO of Daktari Diagnostics, showed a handheld, point of care, battery-operated diagnostics device the size of a small lunch box or portable radio that will first be used to test for AIDS in Africa–at a cost of $1.50 per test–starting next year. He pointed out that while drugs are available to treat the  33 million people worldwide who have  HIV– “ten million of them don’t know it.”

Scientia Advisors Partner Arshad Ahmed, who  served as moderator, (and is my client) pointed out in a recent blog that emerging markets may have the opportunity to adopt the latest point-of-care products, leapfrogging developed countries, in some instances–and that “emerging markets are where we will see the first application of low cost and inovative disruptive technologies at work.” Launching in the developing world allows companies to test out and market technologies before going through the rigorous approval process required in the developed world.

I was blown away by the prospects for  devices like these and asked when and how they will affect the  costs and structure of, say, US healthcare–and whether those who make and market our costly technologies will try to keep these new testing devices out.  While Ryan, whose nonprofit will have a commercial wing, responded that she does not expect opposition from stakeholders in our current system. But can that possibly be right?

Anita M. Harris

Anita M. Harris is President of the Harris Communications Group, a marketing and public relations firm specializing in health, science and technology industries, worldwide.


In a new blog post entitled Pharma in 2011: A Year for Big Decisions, Scientia Advisors Managing Partner Harry Glorikian (who is my client) writes that most pharma firms’ current approaches for playing in new fields are likely to fail—and makes a number of  industry predictions for the coming year.
With several major products going off –patent, and with regulatory and policy changes in the works, Glorikian writes, many large pharma companies must rethink  their current business models in order to succeed on new playing fields. 

In the coming year, pharma can expect:

  • Little growth for big caps and fewer big cap company mergers
· Need for cash generation leading to divestment of  developmental assets
  • Increased focus on therapeutics for niche and orphan diseases
  • Accelerated  need for prescription/diagnostics combinations, leading to partnerships or acquisitions.


“In our view, most pharma firms’ current approaches for playing in new fields will not succeed—and companies have many difficult decisions to make,” Glorikian writes. “A big question is whether, in making those decisions, they will try to satisfy shareholders’ immediate needs or ensure long-term company health.”

Here’s a link to the complete blog:  Pharma in 2011: A Year for Big Decisions

–Anita M. Harris

Scientia Advisors, based in Boston and San Francisco,  is a management consulting firm specializing in growth strategies for major and emerging companies in health care, life science, biotechnology and nutrition. Scientia recently launched a practice  Pricing and Reimbursement/Market Access .

Anita Harris is president of the  Harris Communications Group— an award-winning marketing and public relations  firm in Cambridge, MA. HarrisCom also publishes New Cambridge Observer, a blog covering arts, sciences, business, politics and life in and around Cambridge, MA.


I’ve been working with Instrumentation Laboratory, a Bedford, MA company, to spread the word about its new diagnostic test that helps prevent brain injury in newborns.  Newly cleared by the FDA, it’s first-ever, rapid point-of-care, lab-quality blood test for measuring  total bilirubin (tBili) in neonates.

Bilirubin, a toxin, can, in high amounts, lead to irreversible brain injury in neonates.  The new tBili assay is performed on IL’s GEM Premier 4000 critical care analyzer.    It allows clinicians to receive lab-quality test results in 90 seconds fromwhole blood in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), rather than wait up to an hour for results from the lab, using traditional chemistry methods.    

 During the first few days of life, the body breaks down fetal red blood cells, producing bilirubin.  More bilirubin is produced than the liver can remove, and it remains circulating in the blood. 

This results in jaundice, the most common condition requiring medical attention in newborns, present in approximately 70%.  However, in 8-10% of newborns, jaundice progresses to severe hyperbilirubinemia.  Left untreated, hyperbilirubinemia can quickly evolve into kernicterus, a devastating, irreversible neonatal brain injury. 

IL announced that it had received the FDA clearance for the test on Tuesday, at the annual meeting of the American Association for Clinical Chemistry. For more information,  check out the Instrumentation Laboratory (US) Web site-http://www.instrumentationlaboratory.com/ilus.aspx .

—Anita Harris

HarrisCom Blog is a publication of the Harris Communications Group of Cambridge, MA. We also publish New Cambridge Observer and Ithaca Diaries Blogs.

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