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BioLabs Names Cornerstone Partners Boosting Fall Opening of New Durham Facility

By Allan Maurer, NCBiotech Writer

Durham-based BioLabs North Carolina is about to become an expanded part of a national network of co-working facilities helping science-based startups go further faster with limited capital investment.

Developers of the new facility have named three companies “cornerstone partners” for the key role they’re playing in helping with the expansion: GlaxoSmithKline; Wexford Science & Technology, LLC; and Wyrick Robbins.

BioLabs NC offers flexible, fully equipped, and supported wet lab and office space that enables startups to test, develop, and grow transformative technologies.

BioLabs NC began operations in 2016 in leased space at the Carmichael Building, 300 N. Duke Street, which currently houses startups that include StrideBio and Element Genomics.

The Chesterfield, built in 1948, was a cigarette-manufacturing factory for the Liggett & Myers Tobacco Company. This prominent building is in downtown Durham’s Brightleaf District, a vibrant area featuring restaurants, retail, entertainment and housing. Vacant since 1999, the Chesterfield is being redeveloped to become a new center of gravity in the life science and technology ecosystem, and home to BioLabs NC – part of a national network of premier co-working facilities for science-based startups. – Images courtesy of LabCentral;  photographer Paul Avis

This fall, BioLabs NC will open its new 42,000-square-foot permanent home in the Chesterfield Building at 700 West Main Street, developed by Wexford. The former Liggett & Myers tobacco company building, which is about a mile from the new Durham Innovation District, will have room for 35 to 40 startups.

“No strings are attached to becoming a resident,” said Caroline Grossman, communications and public affairs liaison for LabCentral and the BioLabs Network. “The facility does not require equity contributions from residents.”

BioLabs NC will feature a glass-walled, open floor plan and inspired design that fosters interaction and collaboration. The “open lab” comprises 100 individual lab benches for use by scientists in a shared lab.

Co-working office facilities include conference rooms and state-of-the-art event spaces for meetings, social and networking events, and educational programs for startups. There are also 10 private lab suites to accommodate growing companies, along with approximately 30 private offices.

Fully functional lab space provided

BioLabs NC will provide residents with fully functional lab space, permits, waste handling, plus all reasonably common lab equipment for bioresearch, including microscopes, real-time qPCR, HPLC, freezers, centrifuges, flow cytometry, chemical hoods, biosafety cabinets and incubators, including BSL-2-rated suites, automated equipment, plate readers, and more.

“Residents can start doing science the day they move in,” said Eric Linsley, founder of Biolabs NC and general partner of Bioinnovation Capital, in an interview. The flexible lab space agreements mean a company can start with half a bench and then move to a full bench, Linsley said.

Resident agreements are for two years, but companies can leave without penalty with 30 days’ notice. The average stay is 18 months. Admission is via a competitive review process that begins with a short form on the BioLabs website followed by consulting with a team member and a selection committee review.

“We take the inertia out of the startup process of getting to proof of concept,” explains Linsley, “You can launch a startup with a credit card. What we’re building here is absolutely disruptive.” He said the model, pioneered by Lab Central in Cambridge, Mass., “has fundamentally changed the way science happens and companies are created. Residents are surrounded by the most incredible equipment you can imagine.”

The whole concept builds upon the idea of people working together, he notes. “People collaborate on things. It’s part of the value of co-working. Life science innovation is a contact sport.”

Partnerships make the difference

A real difference between the BioLabs model and others, Linsley said, “Is that we have lots and lots of partners and residents have opportunities to form partnerships of all sorts.”

“Our Cornerstone Partners have helped create a tremendous opportunity to enhance North Carolina’s ability to launch companies, attract capital and talent, and solidify its reputation as a leading life science hub,” he added. “Our mission is to provide biotech entrepreneurs a fertile environment with the best infrastructure, equipment, services, and programs to enable their unfettered practice of science on day one of move-in.” 

Larry DeGraaf, GSK’s director of worldwide business development, said, “GSK is excited to become a cornerstone partner of BioLabs NC. BioLabs is uniquely positioned to fill a gap in the North Carolina biotechnology ecosystem. We look forward to partnering with BioLabs to mentor emerging life science companies and support scientific innovation in central North Carolina.”

Wexford Science & Technology Senior Director, Development Justin Parker, added, “With BioLabs NC’s commitment to fostering collaboration and accelerating entrepreneurial activity, downtown Durham’s landmark Chesterfield building will serve as the center of a vibrant life science ecosystem that attracts talent, innovation, and economic growth.”

Besides BioLabs’ founding Lab Central site in Cambridge’s Kendall Square and this one in Durham, the group has one in San Diego and another opening soon in New York City.

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