What’s New: Snow Season & Science

helping hands plowPhoto courtesy of the City of Cambridge.

Snow Season

Helping Hands Plow Takes to the Streets

On Halloween, the kids of Cambridge were invited to Sennott Park to handprint one of the city’s bright orange snow plows. A project dreamed up by the Department of Public Works, the Cambridge Arts Council, and local student artists, the “helping hands plow” will make the rounds this winter alongside its less-colorful brethren, according to a city press release. “The Helping Hands theme reminds us all that if we work together, we can get through the winter season safely,” Cambridge Public Works Commissioner Owen O’Riordan said in a statement.

Partners HealthCare Gets a Power Boost
Assembly Square

Partners HealthCare is getting more winter-ready than ever by enlisting Bloom Energy to boost storm readiness, the Boston Business Journal reports. Bloom will provide the Partners headquarters, along with a few other locations, with fuel cell-based energy systems, which will provide cheaper electricity, reduce CO2 emissions, and most importantly, continue to provide power even in the face of a blizzard.


A Cold Case Comes to a Close
Harvard Square

On a January night in 1969, 23-year-old Harvard anthropology student Jane Britton was raped and murdered in her apartment, a high-profile case that would go unsolved for years. However, thanks to recent advancements in forensic technology—and some help from ancestry.com—the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office announced that they have finally identified the killer as serial rapist and murderer Michael Sumpter, Boston.com reports. While Sumpter died in 2001, police were able to match DNA samples taken from the scene of the crime with samples from his still-living brother. “This is the oldest case that the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office has been able to bring to a resolution,” Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan reportedly said at a press conference.

Harvard Unveils HouseZero

Quaint vintage abode on the outside, ultra-efficient energy positive prototype on the inside. The Harvard Center for Green Buildings and Cities (CGBC) has completed its new headquarters, a retrofitted 1940s home called HouseZero, the Boston Business Journal reports. The building’s name comes from the fact that it’s designed to use zero energy for climate control, zero electric lighting during daylight hours, and produce zero carbon emissions. It also operates with 100 percent natural ventilation. The CGBC will both work in and study HouseZero, leveraging the data from the hundreds of sensors embedded in the building to understand “complex building behavior” like never before.

Editas on the Cutting Edge
East Cambridge

Local startup Editas Medicine will be one of the first U.S. companies to test CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technology, the Boston Business Journal reports. Editas will test the technology in its early-stage trials for a drug that could treat the most common cause of childhood blindness. While a date for the study has not been announced, the FDA’s approval of the trial reportedly prompted a $25 million payment from Editas Medicine’s partner, Allergan.

Foundation Medicine Outsmarts Cancer
East Cambridge

Cambridge biotech company Foundation Medicine played a large role in a medical miracle detailed in the Boston Globe earlier this winter. North Attleborough resident John White had an aggressive form of prostate cancer that wasn’t responding to chemotherapy or hormone therapy, and he was given only a year to live. However, when scientists at Foundation ran a new test on the DNA of the cancer cells in White’s prostate, it showed that he could potentially respond to three new immunotherapy drugs, the Globe reports. He began taking one. Two years later, there is no evidence of the disease. His oncologist wrote in a medical journal that White wouldn’t have survived if Foundation’s test hadn’t suggested the drug so quickly.

This story originally appeared in the What’s New section of the Free Time Fervor issue of Scout Cambridge, which is available for free at more than 200 locations throughout the city or by subscription.

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