What Is LabCentral?
A 28,000 square-foot facility in the heart of the Kendall Square, Cambridge, biotech innovation hub, LabCentral is a first-of-its-kind shared laboratory space designed as a launchpad for high-potential life-sciences and biotech startups. It offers fully permitted laboratory and office space for as many as 25 startups comprising approximately 100 scientists and entrepreneurs. LabCentral provides first-class facility and administrative support, skilled laboratory personnel, a domain-relevant expert speaker series ‒ as well as the other critical services and support that early-stage companies need to begin laboratory operations on day one. A private, nonprofit institution, LabCentral was funded in part by a $5 million grant from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, with support from its real-estate partner, MIT. Founding sponsors include Triumvirate Environmental and Johnson & Johnson Innovation. The first startups joined us in early November, with lab operations launching officially November 15, 2013.
A Better Way for Life-Sciences Startups
There has never been a shortage of groundbreaking science in Massachusetts, nor of talented people with entrepreneurial spirit and vision. What was lacking ‒ affordable, move-in-ready laboratory facilities suitable for early-stage research. LabCentral fills this gap. To paraphrase Doug Crawford, the executive director of LabCentral affiliate QB3/UCSF:
Once biotech entrepreneurs are convinced that they should try to bring their work to market, either with or without bridging-the-gap funding, they are often astounded by the next mental adjustment: the amount of effort required to turn their attractive innovation into a useful product. Besides securing intellectual property and developing a business plan, the budding entrepreneur must find a location for the new company – ideally with low rent, important equipment provided, access to supporting services and other needed resources. [K. D. Harrison, N. S. Kadaba, R. B. Kelly, D. Crawford, Building a life sciences innovation ecosystem. Sci. Transl. Med. 4, 157fs37 (2012).]
Successful co-working facilities have been built for aspiring IT companies in many centers of innovation, but there has been a paucity of laboratory spaces for biotech. Laboratory infrastructure is costly, and the initial investment is much larger than just a desk and a good broadband connection. Lease, fit-out, and permitting of lab space consumes precious resources ‒ both human and capital ‒ that could be better spend fine-tuning technology to prepare for clinical trials or commercialization. LabCentral solves this problem by adopting very conscious design choices to optimize use of available space, and to facilitate shared use of resources, equipment, and infrastructure. We combine this with a goal-oriented understanding of “concierge” services that remove many operational burdens from startup companies.