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LabCentral Appoints Gretchen Cook-Anderson as Executive Director of LabCentral Ignite

November 15, 2021

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Adds over 25 years of diversity and inclusion-related leadership expertise to LabCentral's bold initiative to expand diversity, equity and inclusion in biotech and life sciences

Former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and Massachusetts Life Sciences Center President Kenn Turner are joining the LabCentral Ignite Advisory Board

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Nov. 15, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- LabCentral, the first-of-its-kind shared laboratory space designed as a launchpad for high-potential biotech startups, today announced it has appointed Gretchen Cook-Anderson to the newly created role of executive director of LabCentral Ignite, LabCentral's platform aimed at enhancing biotech innovation by stimulating a robust pipeline of diverse, qualified talent. In this new role, Cook-Anderson will oversee the platform's administration, programs, and strategy, with the goal of bringing underrepresented individuals and communities into the life sciences industry. In addition, two prominent Massachusetts leaders with a commitment to biotech innovation, workforce diversity, and broader economic opportunity have joined the LabCentral Ignite Advisory Board: Deval Patrick, former governor of Massachusetts and senior advisor at Bain Capital, and Kenn Turner, president and CEO of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC).

Prior to LabCentral, Cook-Anderson served as the global head of DEIB as associate VP, assistant to the president and director for diversity recruiting and advising at IES Abroad, a non-profit provider of more than 140 study abroad and internship programs for college students. During her tenure, she led diversity and inclusion-related marketing outreach that resulted in 151% growth in enrollment diversity and more than $200 million in revenue. She has recently been recognized as one of the "50 Most Influential Businesspersons of Color" by the Newton-Needham Chamber of Commerce, as a "Black Excellence on The Hill" honoree by the Massachusetts Legislature, and she received the "Impact in Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in International Education" award from NAFSA: Association of International Educators.

Cook-Anderson holds a bachelor's degree in political science from Spelman College and a dual master's degree in international economics and Japanese studies from Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). An active board member for numerous community-based organizations and independent schools, including Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Facing History and Ourselves, Belmont Hill School and Dana Hall School, she consults and speaks publicly on issues of social justice, equity and inclusion throughout the year.

Diversity is a key component of innovation and market success, however just 12% of CEOs in the biotech industry are people of color, and only 30% are women. Underrepresented communities face specific challenges in gaining access to the biotech world, and consequently, the industry misses an opportunity to leverage all available talent and diverse perspectives for the development of novel drugs and technologies. LabCentral Ignite is taking a multi-faceted and collaborative approach to broaden the talent base in biotech for the purpose of accelerating scientific discovery, including the following programs and activities:

  • LabCentral Ignite invests in non-profits focused on STEM education and workforce training. Through $200,000 in direct grantmaking in 2021, Ignite is supporting the scaling of programs that inspire, educate and build access for underserved and underrepresented individuals and communities. Organizations that have received LabCentral Ignite grants to date include Jewish Vocational Services, MassBioEd, Station1, BioBuilder Education Foundation, Gloucester Genomics Institute's Biotechnology Academy, HMS MedScience, Just a Start, The LEAH Project, Life Science Cares, Tutoring Plus of Cambridge and LEAS LAB.
  • LabCentral Ignite's Career Forge identifies, assesses, upskills, and places exceptional people forging their careers in biotech research laboratories. This collaborative training program brings together multiple education organizations to deliver a unique high-quality curriculum and services to end un- and under-employment of talented diverse candidates seeking to enter the biotechnology industry.
  • LabCentral Ignite's Entrepreneurship initiative supports advancement of scientific leadership through the Ignite Golden Ticket and Fellows program, which covers the cost of a lab bench and scientist at LabCentral for high-impact startups with an underrepresented founder, while providing high touch support and access to LabCentral's network and resources.
  • LabCentral Ignite's DEIB Leadership and Anti-Bias training program gives entrepreneurs in the industry the support, education and resources they need to scale their startups with a sound DEI strategy to ensure the industry grows to be a stronger, inclusive place for diverse talent.

Executive Quotes:

"Underrepresented communities represent such a wealth of untapped talent, but due to decades-old systemic barriers and socioeconomic factors, they're often stopped at the gate and never get that first opportunity that is so critical to kicking off careers. I was immediately drawn to LabCentral Ignite because it's a true force multiplier that is already driving tangible changes in this paradigm by connecting all of the key stakeholders necessary to reach STEM students early and prepare and facilitate successful job placement. I'm looking forward to bringing my expertise driving large-scale equity and inclusion programs to the amazing team at LabCentral Ignite as we continue to grow the platform to reach as many students and entrepreneurs as possible."
--Gretchen Cook-Anderson, executive director of LabCentral Ignite

"Our mission of helping to create the next generation of impactful biotech companies demands fresh ideas and approaches that are only possible through the involvement of a broad cross-section of individuals with a mix of backgrounds, experiences and perspectives. Historically, that kind of diverse participation has been lacking in our field, but LabCentral Ignite is fueling the broad representation we need by sparking systemic change through a model of investing in, connecting and advancing diverse talent in the Massachusetts biotech field. Gretchen's deep experience creating and implementing top-level diversity initiatives will be invaluable in broadening the positive impact of the platform."
--Johannes Fruehauf, co-founder and president of LabCentral

"The urgency of racial and social inclusion is personal for me. It's also essential for our future. LabCentral Ignite has an opportunity to extend to students who have been overlooked in the past the chance to help shape and win in the innovation economy, and I'm excited to be a part of that."
--Deval Patrick, former governor of Massachusetts and senior advisor at Bain Capital

"LabCentral Ignite is yet another example of LabCentral spearheading creative new approaches to expanding our biotech workforce. The Life Sciences Center is proud to have LabCentral as a partner as we continue to work collaboratively to build a robust and diverse talent pipeline. I'm also proud to join the Ignite team as an advisor as we look at new ways to open up access and bring more diverse representation to the biotech space, both of which are essential to cementing Massachusetts as a national leader in biotech innovation and growing our local economy."
--Kenn Turner, president and CEO of MLSC

LabCentral hired Bench International earlier this year to conduct a nationwide search for this position, resulting in Cook-Anderson's addition to the leadership team. To learn more about LabCentral Ignite, including grant cycles, how to invest, or to view the full advisory board, visit:

About LabCentral
A private, non-profit institution, LabCentral was founded in 2013 as a launchpad for high potential life-sciences and biotech startups. Operating a total of 150,000 square-feet in the heart of Kendall Square in Cambridge, Mass., LabCentral offers fully permitted laboratory and office space for as many as 76 startups comprising approximately 600 scientists and entrepreneurs. More information is available at