Biotech firm makes move to Quincy

  • Company on cutting edge in prosthetics comes to Quincy

Business leaders and Quincy officials gathered Thursday to welcome Ras Labs at the company’s new office and lab space in South Quincy. The company is developing a new electroactive material that acts as synthetic muscle.

By Patrick Ronan
The Patriot Ledger 

Posted Jul. 11, 2014 @ 3:54 am
Updated Jul 12, 2014 at 2:06 AM

QUINCY – It’s not every day a group of officials clad in suits publicly admit they feel inadequate. But then again, it’s not every day this group rubs shoulders with someone revolutionizing a major scientific industry.

“I have to remind you everyone you’re speaking to is about 50 IQ points lower than yours,” a smiling Peter Forman, president of the South Shore Chamber of Commerce, said to Lenore Rasmussen, founder of Ras Labs. “I feel very inadequate when I hear you talking about reverse polarization.”

A couple of dozen business leaders and city officials gathered Thursday to welcome Ras Labs, a company developing a new electroactive material that acts as synthetic muscle, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony in the company’s

office and lab space in South Quincy.

The new, 3,300-square-foot space, occupied by Rasmussen, a chemist; Eric Sandberg, the company’s CEO; and three interns is on the fourth floor of 300 Congress St. in the Crown Colony office park.

Sandberg, a Hingham resident, said skyrocketing rental rates in Cambridge and Boston, which are considered the epicenter of the nation’s biotechnology and life-sciences industry, made Quincy a natural choice for Ras Labs.

“I can see Quincy becoming the next Cambridge,” Sandberg said.

Rasmussen, a native of West Virginia, is developing a new material called synthetic muscle that she hopes can be used to produce a game-changing prosthetic for robotics and for people with amputated hands or arms.

Rasmussen said she was inspired to create this technology after her cousin had a farm-machinery accident that nearly cost him a leg. Through this exposure to the world of prosthetics, she found that most leg and foot prosthetics were used regularly by amputees, while hand and arm devises were often not used because of poor aesthetics or usability, she said.

“We want a prosthetic that not only looks real, but works real and feels real,” she said.

Some of the samples created by Ras Labs, which also has labs at Princeton University and with the U.S. Army, will be tested on the International Space Station later this year. The company, which had been using free office space at Boston’s Innovation District, was a global finalist in the 2013 MassChallenge startup competition and received funding through the federal government’s Center for Advancement of Science in Space Award.

Ras Labs’ move to Quincy comes as the city tries to attract more biotech and life science companies. In May, the mayors of Quincy, Braintree, Cambridge, Boston and Somerville announced the creation of a new “Life Sciences Corridor” along the MBTA’s Red Line. The goal of the initiative is to expand the region’s life sciences “supercluster” out of Boston and Cambridge.

Rasmussen said Quincy is convenient because of its proximity to the T and Interstate 93, plus she said the office space is fancy yet affordable.

“We know we have a great city. It’s nice to hear it from people like yourselves,” Quincy Mayor Thomas Koch said to Rasmussen and Sandberg.