Biotech Company Helps to Expand Pine Street Inn’s iCater Job Training Program
On Feb. 5, Life Science Cares, in partnership with Slalom, hosted the 2021 Life Science Cares Hackathon, a brand new competition bringing life science industry expertise to a challenge posed by one of the organization’s nonprofit partners. Employee teams from three Massachusetts-based biotech companies pitched ideas for how to scale Pine Street Inn’s iCater job training program and social enterprise to serve more meals to people in need. Wave Life Sciences won the challenge and will work alongside the nonprofit to help enhance distribution capabilities to serve 5,000 meals a day to its shelter guests and other local human service agencies.
Life Science Cares, a collective effort of the life science industry to fight poverty in target cities nationwide, harnesses human and financial resources from companies and industry leaders and commits them to organizations that improve education, workforce development and sustainability for individuals in need, including Pine Street Inn, New England’s leading provider of housing, shelter, street outreach and job training for homeless individuals.
“The life science community is comprised with some of the brightest and most creative, collaborative minds with the resources and passion to help others,” says Sarah MacDonald, Life Science Cares Boston Executive Director. “The Hackathon is another way we can leverage industry members’ skills and expertise to help neighbors in our community.”
To kick-off the Hackathon, Pine Street Inn presented the problem. The nonprofit’s iCater job training program, which provides culinary training to trainees as they build a pathway to self-sufficiency within a supportive community and serves approximately 2,800 freshly prepared family-meals to shelter guests and other nonprofits every day, was growing exponentially. Challenges to scale the program, exacerbated by COVID-19 restrictions, included packaging, storage, ordering, planning and delivery limitations. The organization voiced needs for more robust planning and distribution capabilities will allow Pine Street Inn to adapt more quickly to evolving needs.
Hackers included cross-functional employee teams from Wave Life Sciences, Visterra and Alnylam. Teams participated in Zoom sessions where Pine Street Inn presented their challenges and “office hours” that allowed teams to dig deeper and brainstorm solutions. The entire process was supported by facilitators from Slalom, a business and technology consulting firm which has supported Life Science Cares’ program efforts since 2019.
This week, each team presented their solutions to a panel of expert judges, including Xilio Therapeutics CFO Joe Farmer, Entrada CMO Nerissa Kreher, retired Alexion CFO Paul Clancy and two Pine Street Inn volunteers, Blake Poole and Courtney Forrester as well as Pine Street Senior VP for Operations, Andy Zozom. The winner was chosen during a live virtual showcase attended by members of the Life Science Cares network earlier today.
“It was a true honor for our team at Wave to help out with the important work of Pine Street Inn through the first-ever Life Science Cares Hackathon,” said Clara Gil, Senior Director, Supply Chain, Logistics & Procurement at Wave Life Sciences. “Even though COVID-19 has made face-to-face interactions a challenge, we appreciate the creative thinking by Life Science Cares to find ways for companies to support organizations who contribute so much to our local community. We look forward to continued work with Pine Street Inn as they incorporate our proposal and scale to grow their impact in the Boston area.”
Additional honors were given for Highest Value Impact (Wave Life Sciences), Most Feasible (Visterra & Alnylam in a tie) as well as Most Creative Ideas (Alnylam.)
Life Science Cares has partnered with Pine Street Inn since 2018, supporting the organization’s shelter and housing programs. In 2020, the nonprofit received a $125,000 grant from the Life Science Cares COVID-19 Response Fund, which enabled the organization to enhance cleaning routines; pay staff an increased rate for frontline work; and improve social distancing within its shelters, including opening a temporary shelter. In addition, Life Science Cares organized a drive for games, puzzles, books, and art supplies for guests, yielding 600 donations to help boost morale and provide engagement during quarantine. Prior to the pandemic, Life Science Cares volunteers have regularly served meals and held game nights for shelter guests, assembled baskets of necessities for those moving into housing and decorated the Men’s Inn lobby for the holidays.
“This has been one of the most rewarding and fun ‘virtual’ experiences. We were so impressed by the ideas presented by all three groups,” said Roger Wellington, Director of iCater. “We are excited to work with Wave Life Sciences to put these ideas into action, as well as use elements presented by the other groups. We are very grateful to Life Science Cares for this opportunity, and for their continuing support of our mission to end homelessness.”
Since its founding in 2016, the Life Science Cares network has distributed more than $4.5 million in grants and performed 12,000 volunteer hours to support human service organizations in its four locations: Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco and San Diego. For more information, visit www.lifesciencecares.org.
About Life Science Cares
Life Science Cares is a collective effort of the life science industry connecting companies with nonprofits that improve the lives of people living in poverty in target cities nationwide. In Boston, Life Science Cares harnesses the sector’s human and financial resources from companies and supports a portfolio of 27 nonprofit organizations. Life Science Cares partner organizations work to address basic survival needs (food, shelter, improve education, and develop job skills that increase long term economic sustainability for the community’s most vulnerable neighbors. For more information, visit www.lifesciencecares.org.
Slalom is a modern consulting firm focused on strategy, technology, and business transformation. In 39 markets around the world, Slalom’s teams have autonomy to move fast and do what’s right. They are backed by regional innovation hubs, a global culture of collaboration, and partnerships with the world’s top technology providers. Founded in 2001 and headquartered in Seattle, Slalom has organically grown to over 8,500 employees. Slalom has been named one of Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For five years running and is regularly recognized by employees as a best place to work. Learn more at www.slalom.com.