In its first year of operation, Carlsbad’s innovative biotech incubator has helped give birth to six new life sciences companies that are testing drugs and technologies that they hope to bring to market, the lab’s founders told the City Council.
Joseph Jackson and Kevin Lustig, founders of Bio, Tech and Beyond, said the lab has been in operation for only six months because they spent the first six months converting the city-owned building at 2351 Faraday Avenue into a workable laboratory. More than 400 people attended the lab’s ribbon cutting on last July 12,and on Aug. 1 it opened for business.
“The building has gone from an unused entity to an ongoing hub of economic activity where people are generating businesses, showing there’s really a need for something like this,” Jackson said.
The City of Carlsbad sponsors the community lab/incubator to support the growing life sciences industry.
Carlsbad is home to more than 120 life sciences firms, including such industry giants as Isis Pharmaceuticals, Genoptix and Thermo Fisher Scientific, formerly Life Technologies. The city’s life sciences cluster holds more than 600 patents and provides 7,000 well-paying jobs.
The city leases the 6,000-square-foot building, a former auto insurance claims center, to the lab for $1 a year for five years. Bio, Tech and Beyond’s managers paid for most of the tenant improvements and furnished the lab with scientific and other equipment, some of which was donated by local life sciences companies.
The incubator offers 13 benches that scientists can rent for $600 a month, and it provides access to equipment essential for conducting scientific research. Scientists use the benches and equipment to conduct experiments and test their ideas, with the aim of developing them into marketable drugs and therapies. Five full-time members with six companies and the equivalent of 14 full-time employees are based at the lab.
One of the companies, Orphi Therapeutics, is researching a therapy that would treat a blood disorder, cerebral amyloid angiopathy or “CAA,” which that can cause strokes. The scientists are researching a genetic form of the disease that affects the young, and they hope to begin testing a drug therapy within two years.
Jackson said the scientists who use the lab full time are typically life sciences veterans who have an idea that they’ve been working on for a long time. The lab provides an ideal location to fine-tune and develop that idea into a going concern.
Bio, Tech and Beyond hopes to enroll eight more full-time members over the next six months and is pioneering a research arm, the Carlsbad Center for Translational Medicine, that will partner with academic investigators on projects. The facility also houses a cell culture lab that it can use to generate revenue and help make it self-sustaining.
Jackson said that the lab has conducted two community outreach events and has about 25 active visitors and volunteers who use the facilities regularly. It also serves as a networking center connecting startup firms with industry veterans.
“The City of Carlsbad has a strong presence in the life sciences industry, and it makes sense for the city to provide an incubator where scientists with new ideas can develop as entrepreneurs,” said City of Carlsbad Economic Development Manager Christina Vincent. “The city is very pleased with what Bio, Tech and Beyond has achieved in its first year, and we look forward to a successful future.”
— From a press release from the City of Carlsbad