Llewellyn Cox creates a WeWork for bioscience professionals.
In a building along a trendy artsy neighborhood of Atwater Village, the molecular biologist and venture capitalist will open his next unconditional lab space where he hopes startups can take root in Los Angeles and help create therapies that save lives.
For $ 4,600 per month, a biotech startup can access a college-level lab created by Lab Launch, which Cox founded in 2014. The company kicked off the project on Tuesday.
While the concept isn’t new, there are few of these lab locations available in Los Angeles. Cox is one of a small group of life science professionals who are trying to strengthen the region’s biotech economy and prevent budding talent from straying to centers in San Diego, Boston, or San Francisco.
“The way to really build an economy is to start businesses and grow businesses and keep them here and hire people from here,” Cox said. “And it was always a challenge when we first started.”
Unlike tech start-ups that have humble beginnings in cramped garages or dingy basements, biotech start-ups need expensive lab equipment to store samples, eliminate biohazards, not to mention the bulky permits. The upfront costs can be intimidating and often deter potential entrepreneurs, channeling them to larger companies or university incubators that could take over some patents.
Cox’s answer is Lab Launch.
“In the absence of all the external incubators, you basically have to get into the commercial real estate market first when starting a business, or try to sublet industrial space in the middle of nowhere and build your own lab, and these are really hard things to do, ”Cox said.
Laboratory space at the Lab Launch site in Monrovia
Courtesy of Laboratory Launch
Stephaine Hsieh runs one of the region’s largest professional organizations for life science professionals, but when she arrived in Los Angeles two decades ago, she couldn’t even find a lab to rent. for Meditope. The cancer therapy start-up she led needed a lab where she could store samples and experiment with new therapies. The options were limited and she moved the development of the business to San Diego where there was sufficient infrastructure to innovate.
“I joke that we innovated here and then he moved to San Diego or the Bay Area because there was no reason for it to stay here,” said Hsieh, who runs the Los Angeles office for Biocom, a San Diego-based commerce organization that represents more than 1,400 life science companies.
Los Angeles has thousands of square feet of lab space, much of it backed by universities, private companies, and venture capitalists, totaling thousands of square feet.
Westlake Village BioPartners recently built a 30,000 square foot lab space in its new incubator campus in Thousand Oaks for budding startups. UCLA’s Magnify, a short-term lab space that hosts startups, prioritizes companies in which UCLA owns the intellectual property.
But Lab Launch is not looking to take a stake in the company. These rental spaces allow startups to maintain their independence and control over their intellectual property. And Cox argues that it gives the bioscience industry the infrastructure it so badly needs.
In 2019, the industry generated $ 44.2 billion in economic activity, according to a Biocom report. And the county also received a quarter of all funding the National Institutes of Health allocated to California that year, more than any other county in the state.
“The biosciences provide an important opportunity to expand LA’s innovation economy, develop local talent, and contribute to the long-term economic health of the community and the city as a whole,” said the Los Angeles City Councilor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who led the effort. build more facilities for the industry.
At the Atwater Crossing Arts and Innovation complex, not far from the Los Angeles River, the 11,000 square foot Lab Launch space is under construction. It will provide six private laboratory units ranging from 800 to 3,500 square feet and can be subdivided according to the number of companies joining. The laboratories are located near a cluster of hospitals in Silver Lake, such as Children’s Hospital and Kaiser Permanente, a subway station, and many restaurants and cafes.
Created by scientists and entrepreneurs, the first Lab Launch space opened seven years ago in Monrovia. The 11,000 square foot lab space provides a place for startups to collaborate and experiment. The installation comes with ultra pure water (a common ingredient in the pharmaceutical industry) and freezers designed to store samples.
The most common customers are small research and manufacturing organizations that contract with other, often larger, pharmaceutical or biotech companies and focus on specific vertical niches, such as the repeated creation of a single pharmaceutical ingredient. and only need a little lab space to do so. . These organizations make the development and manufacture of some of the biotechnology and pharmaceuticals cheaper.
KorvaLabs was one of the first companies at the Lab Launch site in Monrovia in 2015 to develop and test performance enhancing drugs. The company stayed for two years before expanding from there and into another facility in San Dimas. He then worked with and was bought out by COVID testing company Curative during the pandemic.
“Having these kinds of professionals established around us makes it a much more supportive and creative environment for high growth start-ups that need help wherever they can get it,” Cox said.
Hseih is already seeing it happening.
“Over the past five years, I will say that we have just seen explosive acceleration and growth,” Hsieh said.
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