“From Controversy to Cure” documentary chronicles the biotech boom in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Kendall Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is home to the maximum concentration of biotechnology companies on earth. Once a salt marsh regarding the Charles River, the now-bustling enclave surrounding the MIT university features developed from the desolate wasteland of bare parking lots and crumbling warehouses inside 1970s to a vibrant ecosystem of development: the beating heart of this nation’s biotechnology business these days.

But how did this urban rags-to-riches story start? Just how did one of Cambridge’s least-appealing areas — one locals avoided in the evening for a long time — become a beacon for titans of industry and innovative startups focusing on remedies for devastating diseases like cancer, Alzheimer’s, and diabetic issues?

“From Controversy to Cure: in the Cambridge Biotech Boom” is a fresh documentary movie by MIT movie Productions premiering recently with showings at MIT. It informs the storyline of this lengthy, largely unplanned, and frequently haphazard series of activities in Cambridge and beyond that ignited a “bio increase” in the greater Boston region.

“This isn’t about Kendall Square: This can be a tale of how, in an exceedingly unusual neighborhood, systematic breakthroughs were translated into societal benefits … the therapy and control over infection,” says MIT Institute Professor Phillip Sharp, whoever pioneering research on split genetics received him a Nobel reward in 1993.

In 1978, Sharp and Harvard University biochemist Wally Gilbert founded Biogen, an organization utilising the brand new industry of recombinant DNA to produce treatments for diseases such as leukemia and numerous sclerosis. The organization became the cornerstone which biotech ended up being built in Kendall Square, but that growth took time — and neighborhood input. 

“It was crucial that neighborhood had been supporting for the research therefore the universities,” says Sharp, adding the unprecedented research happening in molecular biology through the 1970s made many in Cambridge uncomfortable.

Inside film, he sheds light regarding June 1977 Cambridge City Council hearings to talk about DNA experimentation, which led to the town council’s decision to modify the industry. Sharp recalls Mayor Alfred Vellucci’s special hearing to grill boffins from MIT and Harvard about possible risks of hereditary manufacturing.

“Our a reaction to Mayor Vellucci had beenn’t [Sturm und Drang] … it absolutely was, let’s use him. We nothing to hide, but we think this technology is essential. We thought, let’s work with the city and persuade all of them that individuals work within a sensible, clear means. That in the end brought united states up to a spot where the community accepted this technology and biotech.”

Those tense hearings, as well as other scenes of Kendall Square’s change, are delivered to life within the MIT film through well-preserved archival footage. The MIT Video Productions group dusted off hours of archived video clips to just take its market back in time so that it, also, could witness the change of an metropolitan district and a business.

This committed project, 2 yrs inside creating, was initiated by Larry Gallagher, the film’s professional producer and former senior manager of MIT Video Productions. “We had recently finished some documentaries in support of the MIT2016 party and we were hoping to find various other opportunities to produce content of historic importance. Kendall Square ended up being booming so we understood there clearly was a rich and fascinating story how it all had become,” Gallagher states. “For several years, we’d already been applying a substantial present by Neil and Jane Pappalardo to produce content that highlights the excellence of MIT, throughout its forms. In Cases Like This, Ann and Phil Sharp joined the Pappalardos in financing the most significant documentary we now have had the good fortune to make.”   

The film’s director, Joe McMaster, an old television producer at WGBH’s Nova, claims advances in research and technology were just section of this tale. “Even the story for the land within Cambridge is vital: folks probably don’t recognize that this area ended up being as soon as cleared which will make means for a branch of NASA to come and perform electronic devices analysis for the space competition, a task that moved away. Many unexpected facets added to your introduction of biotech. It’s simple to tell a story of the generated B led to C … but that was false right here: It’s a more difficult, and therefore interesting, tale.”

The MVP team carried out over 40 interviews through the documentary process, while the film includes a array of sounds, from biotech executives to business newcomers. Future plans include an archive to include all that footage, as well as the movie itself, a resource that Gallagher hopes will motivate Kendall Square’s next generation of innovators.

Those types of interviewed is Susan Whitehead, vice-chair and life board person in the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, who informed the storyline of the woman dad Jack Whitehead’s $150 million share on institute. She credits the movie with shining a light on biotech’s very early innovators and people. “Biotech is sluggish tech,” Whitehead explains. “And slow tech uncovered a hospitable environment here. Twenty-five years ago, Kendall Square had no Novartis or Pfizer or Bristol-Myers Squibb — but there was clearly an desire for food for study as well as the determination to nurture it — and industry has used.”

“People have an interest within the history of societies,” states Sharp. “this is a significant fundamental advance inside our science and just how our society solves issues. It’s lucky that within era, with news and individuals living longer, that this video has been capable capture that moment — to demonstrate exactly how science had to undertake a series of events generate brand-new ways of resolving issues.”