Growing up near NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, surrounded by rocket scientists, Lori Lebson always knew she wanted a career in science herself.
She wasn’t quite sure which kind of science — until her mom got sick with multiple sclerosis while Lebson was at college, in 2000. Lebson, an only child, became a caregiver at age 18 and her focus turned to biology: She eventually decided to pursue a doctorate in neuroimmunology. (Her parents were divorced at the time.) Then, her father was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2015. So Lebson extended her post-doc research work into oncology as well.
Now, with her latest job at German drugmaker Merck KGaA’s EMD Serono group in Rockland, it’s all coming together: her research specializations and her background as a caregiver. Lebson was just promoted to senior vice president for North American medical affairs, a job that involves research around the company’s approved drugs and support for patients and families. She reports to EMD Serono president Chris Round.
Previously, Lebson’s role focused on EMD Serono’s MS portfolio. It now includes oncology and fertility drugs as well. “This was a dream opportunity,” Lebson said.
In a Sept. 26 post on EMD Serono’s website about her new role, Lebson wrote about how her dad died in 2016, followed by her mom in 2018 — driving her belief in the critical need for more biomedical innovation. She wrote that she knows her parents would be inspired to see the progress toward treating their respective diseases. It’s a safe bet they would also be inspired by her professional success.
Lebson moved to the South Shore from Florida in 2018, in part for her job at EMD Serono, in advance of the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the company’s oral MS treatment Mavenclad. The change of scenery provided a chance to heal, after her mother’s death, and a way to honor her mom’s legacy.
She also came here to be part of Greater Boston’s renowned biotech ecosystem, though she had to convince her husband to give up that warm Florida sun.
“I really want to be close to the science, close to the innovation,” Lebson said. “This is where the real excitement is.”
Augustus almost ready to unveil big housing bill
It won’t be long now: The Healey administration’s long-awaited housing bond bill should be out any day.
That’s the word from Ed Augustus, Governor Maura Healey’s housing secretary. He told Associated Industries of Massachusetts members on Thursday that the bill will be filed with the Legislature this week or next week, and he offered a glimpse of what could be in there.
As is typical for this kind of legislation, the bill will recapitalize crucial state programs that are running low on funds. But then there’s the housing policy proposals that Augustus and his team will include. Augustus said to expect “more than 20 policy changes,” essentially aimed at Healey’s goal to build “more housing, and faster,” and address a shortage that has become a full-blown crisis.
“We’re looking at the bond bill [to] not just do maintenance but really accelerate production,” Augustus said.
No details yet, but Augustus offered tantalizing clues. For example, he talked about a “seasonal communities” designation, much like the special treatment that so-called Gateway Cities get today, to address the needs of places like Cape Cod and the Berkshires. He noted that roughly half of the Cape’s workforce lives off-Cape now.
In response to one question, Augustus promised “new tools” to support the production of single-family homes. And when asked about projects that are stuck in neutral because of the rapid rise of interest rates last year, Augustus pledged to tackle that as well.
“I think you’ll see us offer an innovative strategy to help with that a little bit,” he added. “If our charge is ‘more, faster,’ one of the things we’ve been looking at is how ... we get those projects that are already approved and ready to go back on track and on to construction.”
Ali heads back to Big Blue
After stepping down as chief executive of Needham-based IDG in May, Mohamad Ali took time off to travel, visit with family — and entertain job offers. Ali said he was close to accepting another chief executive role when his old friend Arvind Krishna came calling.
Ali and Krishna, the CEO of IBM, go way back — to Ali’s 13-year tenure at the Armonk, N.Y.-based computing powerhouse. Ali left IBM in 2009 but stayed in touch.
Krishna called to convince Ali to come back.
Ali said he was impressed with IBM’s focus on artificial intelligence and cloud computing. These two areas, Ali surmised, represent the future of tech.
“Here’s an opportunity to be part of this incredible transformation, not just of IBM but our society at large,” Ali said.
The end result: Ali rejoined IBM last week as senior vice president and chief operating officer of IBM Consulting, reporting to John Granger, the head of the consulting business. Ali will primarily work out of IBM’s Cambridge office.
“Many of the people who lead the company now are people I worked with and, in some ways, grew up with,” Ali said. “It’s really like coming home to family.”
Winslow is leveling up the Equalizer Institute
Just in time for the third movie in the Equalizer series, featuring Denzel Washington as a Boston-based crusader for justice, comes good news for our city’s “other” Equalizer: New England Legal Foundation president Dan Winslow.
Winslow just landed a big matching grant from the Rappaport Foundation that all but assures he will be able to achieve his dream in 2024 of opening what he calls the Equalizer Institute, a legal clinic for underrepresented entrepreneurs to help them get their startups up and running. Meanwhile, former governor Deval Patrick, a lawyer with considerable business experience, has volunteered to be an adviser for the project.
Earlier this year, the Cummings Foundation awarded $225,000 over three years to Winslow’s nonprofit. Now, the Rappaport Foundation has kicked in $400,000 over two years, so long as Winslow can match the money. Assuming he does, Winslow will be just shy of the $600,000 he needs to fund the legal clinic for its first year. The money will go toward four lawyers who separately specialize in finance and transactions, real estate, intellectual property, and employment, plus a paralegal. They’ll be based at NELF’s office in downtown Boston. Winslow says “we’re absolutely going to get this done in 2024 based on the current interest and funding.”
The name, of course, has nothing to do with the movie series, or the TV show that preceded it. Instead, Winslow said the clinic’s mission is to “level the playing field, or equalize opportunity, for underserved entrepreneurs to get their new businesses started.” But the “Leveler Institute” didn’t have quite the same ring to it.
Finegold still rocks, for a cause
State senator and attorney by day, concert promoter by night?
With the 617 Rocks Foundation’s second annual charity concert around the corner, foundation founder Barry Finegold’s schedule is pretty much maxed out right now.
Finegold, a lifelong music buff, launched the charitable venture last year, with Godsmack headlining the inaugural show at the MGM Music Hall. They raised more than $100,000 for Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and for the Scars Foundation, Godsmack singer Sully Erna’s charity for mental health causes.
This year brings more hard rock: Chevelle and Three Days Grace will hit the stage at MGM on Oct. 14. Corporate sponsors Boston Beer Co., Comcast, Coca-Cola, Eastern Bank, and Digital Federal Credit Union are all back, Finegold said, and event promoter Live Nation has played a critical role in pulling it all together. He expects to raise at least $125,000 for Dana-Farber and the Scars Foundation this time.
“We really want to continue to grow this thing, expand it, and make this a premier event in Boston,” Finegold said. “It’s going to be around for a long time to come.”