Broad Institute moves 800 researchers to new building
The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, a hub of genetics research in Kendall Square, will open a new 15-story research tower Wednesday, bringing together hundreds of scientists who previously worked across four scattered locations.
The building at 75 Ames St. will connect to Broad's main building at 7 Cambridge Center. It was designed to allow researchers studying a range of debilitating diseases to share ideas and collaborate on research. The floors are laid out so big teams of scientists in labs and those at computers can work side by side.
"This new building will really represent our coming together," said Dr. David Altshuler, deputy director and chief academic officer of Broad. "It will be an extended single campus, which will really facilitate the work that we do."
The 375,000-square-foot research building, which will house 800 researchers from Broad and affiliated institutions, is opening as Broad marks its 10th anniversary. The institute is a collaboration of Harvard and MIT, supported by about $290 million in annual funding, more than half coming from the federal government.
The Cambridge institute laid off 47 people earlier this year after one federally funded program was cut and another eliminated. Broad is hiring for several other positions and is not expecting any more job cuts, Altshuler said.
Broad directly employs about 800 people but counts 1,700 others within its "community," which includes scientists from Harvard, MIT, and Harvard-affiliated teaching hospitals in Boston.
The sleek glass structure on Ames Street, built to the highest energy-efficiency standards, will host researchers who study the genetic underpinnings of cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, metabolic diseases, autoimmune diseases, psychiatric diseases, and more. A Broad spokeswoman declined to say how much the new building cost. Every floor has lab space and office space. There are lots of meeting spaces, and ample white boards for researchers to dash off ideas or share theories with colleagues.
"Floor-to-ceiling white boards," said Elinor Karlsson, a postdoctoral fellow who studies infectious diseases. "If there's one thing scientists love, it's floor-to-ceiling white boards. It'll be interesting to see what pops up."
By putting researchers of different disciplines close together, the building was designed to encourage communication — scheduled and unscheduled. Karlsson, who moved into her new office a couple weeks ago, said it's already happening. She's bumping into colleagues she never used to see.
At the coffee machine last week, she found Towfique Raj, another researcher. They started chatting about Raj's work in immune cells, and Karlsson realized it was not so disconnected from her own project on cholera resistance.
"Oh, wait a minute, that actually sounds like something that could be very useful for what I need to do for the next stage of my work," Karlsson recalled thinking.
When Broad started a decade ago, scientists working on different projects remained somewhat separate. That has changed over time as the institute has matured, and the new research space, by bringing different departments under one roof, will force it to change even more, according to Altshuler.
"What we've seen is an interconnectedness," he said. "There's a lot of cross-fertilization, both at the level of methods and the level of the biology."