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When a Building Sign Becomes an Invitation Inside

The Vertex sign in Boston’s Seaport District is more than a powerful display of innovation; it’s a way to connect with the patient communities that motivate and inspire us every day. 

"I was determined to get into that building to meet the people inside."

If you ask Margarete Cassalina what prompted her visit to our headquarters in Boston, she’ll tell you one thing: “I had to. It was a sign.”

Inviting members of the cystic fibrosis (CF) community to tour our labs and meet our employees is part of who we are. Whether it’s over lunch or across the lab bench, the experiences that patients and families share with us help advance our knowledge about the disease and build on our scientific approach. Many of these visits are planned in advance with our Patient Engagement team. But occasionally, the unexpected visitor shows up at our door.

What do we do next? Show them around, of course.

That’s what happened when 6-year-old Mamie Borchert visited Boston with her parents. As Mamie and her mom studied the Boston Harbor from their window at the Long Wharf Marriott hotel, they noticed something familiar. The same logo from the back of Mamie’s medication was staring back at them, but now it was three stories tall on the side of a building.

“Those are the people who make your medicine,” said her mom, Sarah. 

“Can we go inside?" asked Mamie. "Let’s meet all the people!” 

Sarah wasn’t sure if they could get inside, but figured it was worth a shot. She emailed Mamie’s Vertex Guidance and Patient Support Case Manager and asked if they could visit. We invited them in for a tour the next day. Between rounds of Pac Man in the game room and many questions for our scientists, Mamie quickly became a part of the Vertex family.

We’ve shared similar experiences with families from across the globe since moving into our Seaport headquarters in early 2014. From Tennessee to the Netherlands, tourists exploring Boston have stumbled upon our building and dropped in to meet the people making medicines for their disease.

Margarete Cassalina’s sign-spotting story was the first of dozens we heard. Margarete, who is the mother of two children – Jena and Eric – with cystic fibrosis, is a motivational speaker, award-winning author and passionate advocate for the CF community. Her journey into advocacy was spurred by personal heartbreak when 13-year-old Jena “moved up” in 2006 after battling CF.

“I don’t say that she died, because I don’t believe that energy can ever disappear from this earth,” said Margarete to Vertex employees at a recent event. “I believe that she moved up to heaven, and parts of her are still with me here, giving me reminders of her love.” 

Those reminders come in the form of coincidences. Like how Margarete and her husband, and anyone who reads Margarete’s book, "Beyond Breathing," will find pennies in the most unusual places. The coincidences also occur with numbers. When Margarete and her husband were in Boston on what would have been Jena’s 21st birthday, Margarete looked up and saw the Vertex sign from her hotel window. It happened at 11:02 p.m., the exact time Jena was born.  

“I honestly didn’t know that Vertex was in Boston,” said Margarete, “But I looked up and there it was. Jena had brought me here. And I was determined to get into that building to meet the people inside.” 

Margarete didn’t make it over to see us that day in 2014, but she recently returned to share her story with our employees. The connections we make with visitors like Margarete are the strongest reminders of why we do what we do. We can’t wait to see who walks through our door next.