Science in Mind

Update: Boston Biomedical Research Institute to dissolve

At an annual meeting Thursday evening, the members of the corporation of the Boston Biomedical Research Institute voted to dissolve the long-running nonprofit organization, due to financial troubles exacerbated by increased competition for scarce research funding.

Despite objections from some faculty, the members of the corporation voted overwhelmingly, 61 to 15, to close the institute. The process could take months as the building in Watertown is sold. Some of the scientists who work there have objected not only to the loss of the beloved research institution, but also to the uncertainty surrounding their careers and the scientific work in their laboratories.

“This was a sad outcome, but not an unexpected one,” Charles Emerson, executive director of BBRI said in a statement. Despite considerable effort, “we were simply unable to generate the amount of funds necessary to keep the Institute on sound financial footing for the future. Our focus now is to find placement for all of our scientists and to support the transition of the important research of BBRI to other mission-driven institutions.”

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A group of faculty and some outsiders vocally opposed the closure.

In a letter sent Tuesday to members of the corporation, one of the founders of the institute, Dr. Endre Balazs, and a former scientist, Janet Denlinger, wrote to urge a “no” vote:

“There has been insufficient concern for the scientists’ well-being, not to mention the potential loss of remaining grant funding and instruments if they do not find employment in a very short time. For the staff scientists, because of the lack of transparency of the process from the beginning, the time for finding a new position has become severely shortened, making a meaningful transition to a new position next to impossible,” wrote Balazs and Denlinger, who are married.

Sherwin Sam Lehrer, a tenured senior scientist, said in an e-mail that about 30 members of the corporation attended the Thursday meeting. He said he tried to persuade those present “that voting No was just a slowing down of the process, that we needed faculty involvement and transparancy.”

Although the effort was unsuccessful, Lehrer said the faculty hired an attorney to represent their interests.

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