Life sciences incubator helps entrepreneurs, works towards sustainability

Life sciences incubator helps entrepreneurs, works towards sustainability
Jo Yeakley runs tests in the lab at Bio, Tech and Beyond as part of her work developing an innovative gene expression system for the startup BioSpyder. Photo by Rachel Stine

CARLSBAD — One year after Bio, Tech and Beyond sealed the deal with the city and about seven months after it became operational, the community life sciences incubator is giving entrepreneurs the tools to turn their ideas into marketable products.

Bio, Tech and Beyond offers low cost, shared lab space and equipment to lower the barriers to entry for product and business development in the life sciences industry, explained co-founder Kevin Lustig. It is the first community incubator with lab space for rent in San Diego County.

In a presentation to City Council on Feb. 18, he said that the life sciences incubator has been successful in “allow(ing) anyone to come through the door and take their idea… and do something about it.”

The facility rents out lab benches and equipment for $400 to $600 per month, less than half of the market rate for such space, according to Lustig. The company receives 20 percent of all grants obtained by companies that rent lab space, while other labs require 60 percent and even as high as 100 percent of grant funds.

Six startup companies with a total of 14 full-time employees are currently renting space in the Carlsbad community lab.

BioSpyder is one of those companies. The startup’s founding team of four is working to develop a gene expression system that will improve drug discovery. The resulting product will be able to test drugs for a wide range of toxicity and benefits.

By creating a system that can complete an assortment of studies at once, buyers can obtain more data from a single test, explained Jo Yeakley, BioSpyder’s vice president of research and development. This would reduce the cost and increase the efficiency of drug testing.

She explained that after BioSpyder was established with employees and funding secured thanks to a National Institutes of Health grant last year, the company lacked lab space and equipment to initiate product development.

The company settled on Bio, Tech and Beyond because of its low costs, available equipment, and networking potential with other companies also working in the space.

“It’s a good spot for just starting out as a company — solves a lot of our infrastructure problems,” Yeakley said.

Bio, Tech and Beyond is located at the corner of Faraday Avenue and El Camino Real, nestled among Carlsbad’s prominent biotech companies, including Life Technologies.

City Council agreed last February to lease a city-owned building to the community lab in the hopes of attracting startups that could develop into profitable local businesses.

Before the facility opened, the building had been vacant for 10 years.

In the coming years, the lab’s goals include securing greater revenue and more companies.

Joseph Jackson, Bio, Tech and Beyond, co-founder, said that the company is working towards gaining sponsors and grant funds as well as launching a crowdsourcing campaign to support a $200,000 annual operating budget and break even by next year.

By the end of 2014 the business hopes to have eight additional companies working out of the lab, form a board of directors and advisory board, and host regular educational events.

Lustig and Jackson don’t anticipate having any trouble attracting more fledgling companies.

Since it opened, they have received 40 inquires from startups interested in using the facilities. They’re interviewing the applicants and working with them to establish a product development plan and access funding.

“There is way more demand than could ever fit in the lab,” Jackson said.

 

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