A biotech start-up entrepreneur can now rent a bench and shared lab facilities to take off
Nurturing start-ups—now almost synonymous with innovation—could itself call for some innovative thinking. At LabCentral, in Boston, Massachusetts, young scientists can rent a bench and share laboratory facilities and services to get their biotech enterprises off the ground. LabCentral, which gets government funding and corporate sponsorships from pharma companies, is located in Kendall Square, one of the most sought after addresses for biotech start-ups—as per a report in Nature, over 120 bio-medical firms are packed into the hub which has a radius of 1.5 km. Kendall Square’s proximity to Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology—that can provide the talent, the patent lawyers, contract researchers et al that start-ups need—and the fact that potential acquirers like Novartis and Pfizer are expanding their offices in the neighbourhood to seek out hot start-ups make it a lodestone for biotech entrepreneurs. However, with wild popularity has come a space-crunch that could undermine the start-ups’ viability—rents have doubled within a decade, from $400/square-metre in 2004 to nearly $800/square metre in 2014.
In such a scenario, LabCentral has assumed the role of an incubator that preserves the USPs of Kendall Square, but drastically reduces the costs of being there. The eight private lab-suites it has, for instance, come for $14,500 to $16,600 per month, offering fully-equipped space of 300 to 650 sq feet. The rent alone would have been a hefty $22,300 per month if a start-up were to lease just the space available in the smallest lab-suite! At present, LabCentral has 28 resident companies—that are involved in developing anything between techniques to curb HIV’s resistance to ART to immunotherapy formulations to treat cancer—and plans to double the occupancy in the next two years. This is exactly the kind of incubator-innovation that could foster start-up innovation.