Member Spotlight: Q&A with Addgene

Mar 01, 2019

Every month, MassBio spotlights a member company and the great work they’re doing to advance the life sciences industry and support the patients we serve. This month we spoke with Aliyah M. Weinstein, PhD, Marketing and Communications Manager at Addgene, the nonprofit plasmid repository. In this role, she works to ensure that scientists around the world know about Addgene’s materials, services, and educational resources. Aliyah advocates for equitable access to STEM education and careers through writing and community outreach.​

Tell us about your organization, its mission, and current initiatives.

Addgene is a global nonprofit plasmid repository. Our mission is to accelerate research and discovery by improving access to useful research materials and information. We organize the transfer of DNA-based reagents such as plasmids and ready-to-use viral preps between scientists in over 90 countries and have over 71,000 plasmids available in our repository. Over the past few months, Addgene has hit several memorable milestones. We shipped our 1 millionth plasmid in September, relocated to the LINX building in Watertown in November, and celebrated our 15th anniversary in January! With our new space comes the exciting opportunity to grow our team and expand the services that we can offer to the scientific community.

How does your organization’s activities help patients now and into the future?

Clinical breakthroughs are fueled by basic science discoveries. The materials that Addgene distributes help basic science researchers easily access the DNA-based tools they need to make new discoveries. For scientists who develop new tools and deposit them at Addgene, we provide support by taking care of quality control, MTA compliance, reagent production and distribution, and record-keeping. Sharing speeds science, and Addgene empowers researchers worldwide to make an impact on the present and future of science and medicine.

What do you see as the biggest challenge facing the life sciences industry today?

The biggest challenge in the industry is the need for inclusive and diverse company cultures. It’s the only way to ensure that every employee will feel welcomed, supported, and engaged – and ultimately for the organization to reach its full potential. Addgene is committed to fostering this kind of environment through our philosophy of supportive, radical flexibility; harassment awareness and unbiasing training for all employees; recruiting partnerships with local organizations such as Just a Start and community colleges; and as a founding sponsor of the Massachusetts LGBT Chamber of Commerce. As our CEO, Joanne Kamens, highlighted last year, we are engaged in at least half of the efforts to reach gender parity in the life sciences sector that were recommended in the MassBio report. We encourage other leaders to spend time understanding why taking these kinds of actions are important not only to their company, but to the success of the industry as a whole.

What’s next for your organization / what are you focused on in the coming year?

As always, we want to make it easy for scientists around the world to access the reagents they need. This year, Addgene is focused on filling gaps in our collection, expanding our distribution of plasmids and ready-to-use viral preps, and developing new services that further accelerate research. We’ll continue working closely with the non-researchers in our pipeline, such as technology transfer offices and international distributors, to improve our processes for reagent sharing. We are also involved in the growing effort to enable scientific reproducibility. We will continue to provide open access molecular biology protocols and educational resources, and plasmid sequence validation and associated information, to the scientific community.

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