Forsyth Incubator Featured in Boston Globe

  • Forsyth Institute opens Cambridge incubator for biomedical research
  • Tuesday, October 18, 2016
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By Robert Weisman GLOBE STAFF OCTOBER 18, 2016

Forsyth Institute, a century-old oral health research center, has become the latest organization to set up an incubator for biomedical startups in Cambridge.

The institute is opening the Forsyth Entrepreneurial Science Center at its headquarters at 245 First St., outside Kendall Square, to help its own scientists commercialize research and provide temporary work space for startups.

“Our mission is to improve oral health and overall health,” said Jennifer Kelly, a vice president at Forsyth, a nonprofit founded in 1910 as the Forsyth Dental Infirmary for Children to treat Boston’s disadvantaged children. “This will help our scientists think entrepreneurially, collaborate with researchers at companies, and get their technology to market.” The shared-space incubator will occupy about 5,000 square feet within Forsyth’s 70,000-square-foot space, said Jason Walsh, the Forsyth director of business development.

Forsyth has already lined up its first tenant: biotech startup Magenta Therapeutics Inc. Magenta, hatched by venture capital firms Atlas Venture of Cambridge and Third Rock Ventures of Boston, was shopping for temporary space for its growing staff and heard informally about the Forsyth plan.

Walsh said Forsyth is looking for at least two other startups, each with five to 10 employees.

“I’m getting two or three calls a week” from prospective tenants, Walsh said. “We didn’t even hang up our shingle [at the incubator] before a company found us.”

Preference will be given to institute scientists seeking to commercialize their research or to oral health startups, he said, but other biomedical startups could also be accepted. Eventually, Forsyth may also create an accelerator program to let its research sponsors invest in startups.

Forsyth’s is only the latest incubator for fledgling biosciences companies in Cambridge. Others are Lab Central, Mass Innovation Labs, NGIN Workplace, and Cambridge Innovation Center, which is also a breeding ground for high-tech and other early-stage companies.

Kelly said the incubator is symbolically important to Forsyth, which has 25 principal investigators, 150 employees, and an annual budget of $25 million. At a time when at least 10 other independent US research institutes of all kinds have shut down or consolidated in the past decade, she said, it’s important for Forsyth to evolve and spawn businesses that can compete in what is projected to be a $100 billion oral health market globally.

“The incubator is a great way for us to increase resources for our research,” she said. “It is also a way to imbue Forsyth with an entrepreneurial culture to help us thrive.”