News | October 29

The Critical Role of the Life Sciences & Healthcare Nonprofit Ecosystem

A Q&A with Joanne Kamens, Executive Director of Addgene & Co-Chair of MassBio’s Nonprofit Forum Working Group

Ahead of MassBio’s 2020 Life Sciences & Nonprofit Pitch Challenge, we sat down with Joanne Kamens, Executive Director of Addgene & Co-Chair of MassBio’s Nonprofit Forum Working Group, to learn how nonprofit organizations are fueling our biotech and healthcare cluster’s growth.

Why should life sciences companies care about the nonprofit ecosystem? 

There are countless reasons life sciences companies should care about and support the nonprofit ecosystem. To name a few:

  • Patient engagement is an increasingly important part of drug, device, and medical service development. Nonprofits provide direct links to organized patient communities and allow insight into consumer-driven healthcare.
  • The life sciences community spends an enormous amount of resources on recruiting, hiring, and preventing turnover. Partnering with nonprofits allows companies to demonstrate the commitment to social responsibility by providing opportunities for philanthropy, volunteering and “good citizenship.” This will increase loyalty for both employees and customers. 
  • Nonprofits provide the most successful models for mission-driven, engaged culture – engagement reduces turnover.
  • Companies are now scrambling to ramp up their equity and inclusion practices and increase their diversity. Nonprofit organizations have been advocating and educating to increase diversity in STEM fields and in business for a long time. These organizations are poised to provide partnership opportunities, best practice support, and candidates. 
  • Nonprofits are involved in discovering new technologies through bench and in silico research. This is not only happening at Massachusetts’ world-class academic institutions but also at small startups with unique, innovative business models. 
  • Organizations in the nonprofit sector play a key role in developing the workforce by training for sector readiness. Companies can and should develop relationships to ensure the skills they are looking for are the ones being emphasized.

Especially in Massachusetts, scientists are moving back and forth between the huge number of diverse nonprofits and for-profit organizations all the time. There’s enormous competition for the best talent. Nonprofits are a major source of not only candidates, but tenants, customers, collaborators, and consultants. 

The nonprofit sector is not monolithic. Tell us a bit about the organizations invited to the pitch challenge and the breadth of their work.

The nonprofit sector is more diverse than most realize. The MassBio Nonprofit Forum leaders worked to define the development stage of the types of organizations we wanted to apply while being very broad in the mission or function we expected. We were rewarded by this open call for our first pitch event and now for our 2020 event. Most may be aware that there are nonprofit universities and hospitals in our area, while not being aware of the many life sciences nonprofits in other areas such as workforce development, education, patient advocacy, science diversity, basic research, therapeutic discovery, research support, and many more. 

A few examples of  >200 nonprofits in Massachusetts in the life sciences space
Why was it important to partner with Life Science Cares for this event?

The life sciences is an enormous sector in Massachusetts, but the community was not coming together to contribute to social justice in an organized way. Life Science Cares quickly became a force in changing this. Our committee was honored to partner with Life Science Cares because of the success they have had identifying nonprofit needs and harnessing industry time, talent, and treasure to meet those needs. 

Register today for MassBio’s Nonprofit Pitch Challenge to hear directly from five innovative nonprofits as they compete for one year of MassBio nonprofit membership and a $2,500 cash award courtesy of Life Science Cares. We hope to see you there!

Originally published on MassBio.org, October 29, 2020