The Community Lab seeks to:

The Community Laboratory is a 1,100-square-foot state-of-the-art teaching facility located in one of Biogen Idec’s research buildings at its Cambridge, MA headquarters. It is outfitted with the latest laboratory equipment and computer technology. Local students engage in hands-on laboratory experiments and use the same equipment Biogen Idec scientists use every day, including pipettes, centrifuges, gel electrophoresis boxes and PCR machines. Scientists and teachers lead the instruction and offer insights on working at the world’s third-largest biotechnology company. Since the lab opened in August 2002, more than 700 area students have visited and participated in several programs.

  • Excite student interest in science and science-related careers
  • Increase awareness and understanding of the biotechnology industry
  • Enhance science literacy of students and the general public
  • Empower all participants to be more comfortable and confident evaluating scientific information


During the Academic Year

Class Visits:The lab is available as a resource for local teachers, to complement their current curriculum with daylong class visits. Students participate in experiments, interact with working biotechnology professionals and learn about different career opportunities.

During the 2002-2003 school year, students from Cambridge Rindge and Latin School visited and completed lab experiments, including amplifying and examining their own DNA as well as transforming bacteria to produce green fluorescent protein. Cambridge eighth graders conducted hemoglobin gel electrophoresis to diagnose a mock patient with sickle-cell anemia.

Professional Development:The lab is also open to teachers for professional development and workshop opportunities.

During the 2002-2003 school year, Somerville science teachers participated in a daylong workshop, amplifying and examining their own DNA. Cambridge Rindge and Latin science teachers explored a method of protein purification.

Mentoring:Biogen Idec also provides mentors for selected area students working on independent research projects.

During the Summer

Biogen Idec offers several intensive multi-day programs:Students conduct laboratory experiments, computer analysis, engage in discussions of scientific concepts and learn about the biotechnology industry.

During the summer of 2003, 60 students from Cambridge and Somerville, including children of Biogen Idec employees, participated in intense one or two-week programs. Both programs exposed the students to techniques and processes used at Biogen Idec. At the end of both programs, the students presented their work in a poster session open to families and employees.

Students in the one-week “Adventures in Biotechnology” programs mutated blue fluorescent protein to green fluorescent protein (GFP), transformed bacteria to produce GFP and purified the protein. In the two-week “Advanced Adventures in Biotechnology” session, students modified a mouse antibody to make it more compatible to humans. Then the students expressed the antibody in cells. Finally, they purified and tested the antibody for ability to bind to the desired target.