Scientists came to Genentech to push the boundaries of medicine, but their windowless labs in dark, converted warehouses offered little in the form of inspiration. The company’s founders knew that one key to great science is a working environment that fosters collaboration and new ideas. They needed to create exactly that environment for their growing collection of world-class scientists. The company believed that scientists were the rock stars at Genentech, and set out to create a flagship building to show it.
That commitment became the Founders Research Center (FRC), the largest biotech research facility in the world when it opened in 1992. A dramatic 275,000 square foot complex, the FRC offered a setting that has since expanded and continues to inspire and attract some of the world’s top researchers.
To make sure it was the ideal research facility, almost every aspect of the design was influenced by the researchers themselves—right down to the whiteboards that were installed everywhere, from labs to kitchens. “The thinking process behind the design included simple ideas that go a long way to help stimulate conversation and interaction,” says Avi Ashkenazi, a senior staff scientist in cancer immunology who joined Genentech in 1989. While the building was spacious, it was also engineered to bring people into contact. “Part of the philosophy was: Density is good,” says vice president of site services Carla Boragno. “You want the space to foster the ‘happy collisions’ that enable collaboration.”
The resulting complex is filled with bright natural light shining off the adjacent San Francisco Bay, with spectacular views from labs, offices and the elevated glass walkways that connect the complex. As it has for nearly 25 years, the FRC today serves as the idea generator for Genentech’s over 1,200 scientists and researchers, whose work has resulted in the discovery of more than 20 new medicines. The building reflects the company’s ongoing commitment to science, the expansion of knowledge and the advancement of clinical medicine.