Recently, Lab Design awarded the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research, Cambridge Campus a Special Recognition for Innovative Systems. Rick Hrycaj, CannonDesign principal, was recently interviewed by Lab Design about many of the unique features of the complex. Read the full feature here. 

The “innovative systems” abound within this research complex, bringing more than 1,000 researchers together with one goal: to discover new medicines for some of the toughest health challenges in the world. Here are a few of the innovative features below:

200 Tech Square: A Full-Scale Experiment

200 Tech Square workspace with casework

200 Tech Square workspace with casework

Before the design of the Cambridge campus, NIBR sought to perform a unique, full-scale experiment to develop and test a new organizational and physical model that could ultimately be applied to all of NIBR’s research facilities around the globe. It was decided that the laboratory fit-out at 200 Tech Square in Cambridge would be the grounds to do so. This full-scale experiment was a truly unique concept and was critical to inform many aspects of the larger campus.

Openness and Flexibility

22 Windsor Street open biology lab minimizes visual obstructions

22 Windsor Street open biology lab minimizes visual obstructions

The laboratory environment begins on above-grade floors and is approached in each tower by extended atrium spaces that include extensive communicating stairs that are designed to be open and part of the orientation to the building and courtyard outside. The labs are organized off the main circulation lobby on each floor that house open and closed collaboration spaces, all with a level of transparency that allows views through the entirety of the spaces to the exterior glass on the far side.

Researchers have the choice of multiple types of workspaces adjacent to the labs. The labs are organized to maximize open space between building cores. A longer clear span was designed so there are fewer columns to encumber the space and block visibility. Floors and furniture are free of columns to make flexible lab benches more universal and the space it inhabits more reconfigurable.

With lab casework, devoid of storage above the work surface, there is a vista that runs from exterior window to exterior window. The planning takes advantage of stairs/utilities shafts cores to aggregate unique and specialized functions around the core elements in order to eliminate any visual obstacles in the open labs. The core also houses ganged fume hoods, just-in-time supply areas, and “tech zones” for equipment sharing. In addition, specialty labs, tissue culture labs, and microscopy areas are grouped around the core.

Remote Shared Equipment and Sample Delivery System

400 MHz nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) imaging device; Lab2Lab system enables specialized equipment to be placed outside of the lab and still be utilized

400 MHz nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) imaging device; Lab2Lab system enables specialized equipment to be placed outside of the lab and still be utilized

One challenge that’s regularly faced when designing spaces for science, analysis, write up, and collaboration, is that including one element often drives another element out. Employing shared equipment and reducing duplication affords more space for light lab or nonlab functions. In this spirit, a centralized shared histology lab brings together the overlapping histology needs of the different research groups housed within the facility, a centralized FACS lab, and a centralized high resolution imaging suite where high-end confocal and live cell microscopes can be utilized with the digital output available through the Novartis internal network so that the analysis of the images can take place remote of the suite.

The sample delivery system further makes sure that tools remain accessible to the science it supports — delivering samples from open bench to analytical equipment. An empty capsule is loaded with sample material, bar-coded for content and execution instructions, and brought to the “sender station.” The Lab2Lab pneumatic sample transfer system then uses a centralized microprocessor to analyze the network of analytical instrumentation and selects a routing protocol that delivers the sample to the first available and appropriate instrument (NMR or LCMS, for example) for processing. The digital output is then made available to the scientist who requested the test. The expended sample bullet is sent to a waste repository and handled as lab waste.