What Is LabCentral?
LabCentral is a Massachusetts non-profit company, founded in 2013 as a launchpad for high-potential life sciences and biotech start-ups. Operating over 150,000 sq. feet in Cambridge and on the Harvard University campus, LabCentral offers a network of fully permitted laboratory and office spaces for as many as 100 start-ups comprising approximately 500 scientists and entrepreneurs. In addition, LabCentral is committed to creating a more sustainable and inclusive biotech system supporting developments in STEM, workforce training and next generation entrepreneurship through its LabCentral Ignite initiative. LabCentral is also home to Gallery 1832 which engages the local community to celebrate artistic innovation.
LabCentral was funded in part by two $5 million grants from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center. Founding sponsors include Eppendorf, Roche, Triumvirate Environmental and Johnson & Johnson Innovation. Lab operations launched in November 2013.
LabCentral provides first-class facility and administrative support, a skilled laboratory operations team, and domain-relevant events and programming‒ as well as the other critical services and support that early-stage companies need to jumpstart laboratory operations.
To accommodate demand for its growing startups, LabCentral grew in size from its initial 28,000 sq. feet footprint to 70,000 sq. feet at its 700 Main Street location in May 2017, later opening LabCentral 610 (33,000 sq. feet) with support from Pfizer, Inc., in December 2017. As a part of the 700 Main Street expansion and in partnership with New England Biolabs, the LabCentral Learning Lab, was founded. The Learning Lab provides a dedicated space for STEM education and teacher training.
LabCentral will open an additional 100,000 sq. feet of shared laboratory and office space in Fall 2021 at 238 Main Street. Designed with a focus on process development and scale-up for bio-manufacturing, LabCentral 238’s purpose is to facilitate company transitions from R&D bench-scale science into scalable production of pre-clinical material in anticipation of clinical and GMP manufacturing. LabCentral 238 will provide those within LabCentral’s network access to the scale-up, pilot plant facilities and technical support they need for their ongoing work.
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 spent 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.