Scientist and innovator David Walt, a founder of the nonprofit Gloucester Marine Genomics Institute, will be the keynote speaker at the launch event to celebrate Gloucester 400+ this Sunday, Jan. 15.

The “Gloucester 400+ Overture To 2023” includes honoring Cape Ann’s first indigenous residents, celebrating its diversity, celebrating local talent, and highlighting initiatives to expand the city’s maritime legacy into the future.

The Overture kicks off at 2 p.m. in the Gloucester High School auditorium. Doors open at 1:30 p.m.

The event also includes the introduction of new music by Gloucester composer Robert Bradshaw among many other cultural offerings.

Walt said he is honored to be part of the event to talk about Gloucester’s promising future as the city celebrates its past.

In addition to the research component of Gloucester Marine Genomics Institute (GMGI), there is an educational arm, the Gloucester Biotechnology Academy, which trains high school graduates for careers in the life sciences.

“GMGI is changing the trajectory of the community by bringing meaningful science to Cape Ann, making new discoveries that will have an impact on fisheries and human health, and also by changing the lives of the students we train at the academy,” Walt said.

Bruce Tobey, a former Gloucester mayor and a tri-chair of Gloucester 400+, said this event will set the tone for a year of appreciation and celebration.

“We want to reflect on the past 400 years and pay tribute those who helped to shape Gloucester into what it is today, while also looking ahead to the next century and how we can shape the city’s path forward,” he said. “The committee felt Dr. Walt represents a perfect balance of the two, an influential leader in Gloucester’s recent history and a driver of change for the future.”

Walt’s academic and scientific background is vast, and he has received numerous national and international awards. He has co-founded multiple other life science startups.

He has been a professor of chemistry, biomedical engineering and genetics. He is a core faculty member of the Wyss Institute at Harvard University, pathology professor at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute professor to name just a few roles listed on his bio at Harvard.

He is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering, the U.S. National Academy of Medicine, the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, and is inducted in the U.S. National Inventors Hall of Fame.

Former Gloucester Mayor John Bell will be in the audience, eager to hear what Walt has to share with the community.

“I’m excited and thrilled that David Walt will be giving the keynote address. He and his wife Michele May are passionate about their work and devoted to their love of science and Cape Ann. I think the people of Gloucester will find it really interesting. David is such a modest professional person with a powerhouse of knowledge. This should give the people of Gloucester and Cape Ann an insight into what looks like a very bright future for GMGI and its impact on our city,” said Bell who serves as chair of the Northeast Seafood Coalition and on the leadership council of GMGI.

GMGI was founded with the belief that the ocean continues to represent a source of scientific and economic opportunity.

Chris Bolzan, GMGI’s executive director, said 2023 represents a significant milestone for GMGI now in its tenth year.

“It’s because of Gloucester’s steadfast support, loyalty, and commitment that we’ve been able to achieve our ambitious goals,” she said. “We’re honored to be celebrating such important moments together.”

Tobey, a Gloucester native son, recalled the 1998 celebration of the city’s 375th anniversary with a look ahead to the Overture event.

“That year’s events stood solidly both on their own and as a foundation for this year’s 400th commemoration and celebration,” said Tobey. “Like the 375th Launch Party, this year’s Overture offers a sampler box of chocolates for the year ahead — with music ranging from classical to contemporary, poetry and prose from the souls of our own people, heritage observations honoring our distinctive past, and discussions of our future that should leave us filled with hope. It’s a can’t-miss kickoff to the great year of 400th events that await us all.”

Gail McCarthy can be reached at 978-675-2706, or at gmccarthy@gloucestertimes.com.

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