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Leveraging biotech to serve our youth

Watertown continues to attract developers serving life sciences companies. In addition to the many companies already here, 15 life sciences developments are under construction, in permitting, or being proposed. Many of these are in the East End. The driver is continued strong venture capital funding for biopharmaceutical companies in the greater Boston area, despite uncertain market conditions. This chart shows venture capital investment in the first half of 2022, with Watertown companies raising over $170 million, fourth after Cambridge, Boston, and Waltham.

Massachusetts is the second largest biotech hub in the country, after the Bay area. We are co-located with world-class research universities and institutions. Established companies and start-ups alike want to be near these institutions and each other for the exchange of ideas and talent. We seem to have a good chance of being selected by the Biden administration to host the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H).

All signs point to continued growth and development of this sector in Massachusetts.

Life sciences companies, and their 100,000+ employees in the Commonwealth, do important work in the world, including inventing life-saving vaccines and cancer-treating drugs. They also offer varied and well-paid careers.

So how can we take advantage of our emerging position as a life sciences hub, and help our students find careers in this field?

Enter CoLAB, a collaboration between Watertown Public Schools and our growing community of life science and technology employers. It was started in 2021 with the goal of helping students understand the wealth of career opportunities available to them here in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) -- and how to pursue those careers.

By June 2022, local life scientists had spoken at virtually every biology, chemistry, and math class in the high school (over 750 student-hours!) and three companies had hosted field trips. Learn more about CoLAB and hear what students had to say here.Thank you, Addgene, Arranta Bio, C4 Therapeutics, Enanta Pharmaceuticals, Lyndra Therapeutics, and SQZ Biotech, for investing in our students and being good neighbors in our community!

This fall, CoLAB is doubling the number of volunteers visiting WHS, and expanding the range of careers they will explore with students. In addition, WHS teachers and local scientists plans to launch a mentoring program for students interested in STEM, helping them to build confidence in their STEM skills, broaden their career horizons, and develop a personal vision.

Next up: exploring the feasibility of high school summer internships. Front-line managers from different employers will share ideas for creating summer jobs that will provide real value to companies and critical work experience for teens.

Exciting stuff! Want to learn more, or help make things happen? Please contact Merle Kummer.


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