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Biological Chemistry

Boston’s Life Sciences Experiment

The flourishing biotech culture is creating opportunities—and challenges—for small companies and job seekers

by Lisa M. Jarvis
August 3, 2015 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 93, Issue 31

Photo of Boston
Credit: Les Vants Aerial Photos/Shutterstcok/Yang Ku/C&EN

Take one densely populated metropolitan area. Drop in growth factors including top academic institutions and medical centers, a seemingly endless supply of fresh ideas for start-ups, a surge in funding for young biotech companies, and the imprimatur of big pharma. Let ferment. What do you get?

Boston. By all accounts—except perhaps those given by San Francisco boosters—it is the hottest place on Earth for biotech.

In the following pages, C&EN explores Boston’s bustling life sciences culture. We chronicle the rapid rise of Cambridge’s Kendall Square neighborhood, which in a decade has gone from biotech backwater to the place where every company is clamoring to be. But the rush into Kendall Square comes at a price: Rents are skyrocketing, and lab space is scarce. And as big pharma firms settle in, many wonder whether the innovative culture will be compromised.

We also check on the health of the job market for scientists in Boston and ask whether the proliferation of companies translates into career opportunities for chemists. As a test case, we examine the fate of the researchers who were laid off when Merck & Co. shut down Cubist Pharmaceuticals’ drug discovery operations earlier this year.

>> Read More: Keeping Up With The Pack In Boston


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