Gov. Patrick celebrates grand opening of LabCentral

Originally published April 3, 2014 in the Banker & Tradesman

Lab Central co-founders Tim Rowe, Johannes Fruehauf, Gov. Deval Patrick, and MIT President Rafael Reif (l-r) make small talk before the opening of the new shared lab space in Kendall Square, Wed. Aug. 2. Photo by Erin Baldassari/Banker & Tradesman.

Lab Central co-founders Tim Rowe, Johannes Fruehauf, Gov. Deval Patrick, and MIT President Rafael Reif (l-r) make small talk before the opening of the new shared lab space in Kendall Square, Wed. Aug. 2. Photo by Erin Baldassari/Banker & Tradesman.

Gov. Deval Patrick celebrated the opening of the new shared biotech lab, LabCentral, in Cambridge on Wednesday with the announcement of an additional $5 million grant from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center.

Patrick said a report released last year by the Boston Foundation revealed life sciences are the fastest-growing industry in the commonwealth.

“Life sciences industries here are on fire in Massachusetts, and I mean that in a good way,” Patrick said. “Since the adoption of our life sciences initiative, we have overtaken all of our competitor states in the rate of job creation.”

The 28,000-square-foot facility in Kendall Square is now home to 14 emerging biotech companies, all of which will share lab benches and office spaces. LabCentral co-founder Dr. Johannes Freuhauf said they have enough space for at least 10 more companies. Last year, the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center awarded $5 million to LabCentral for the build-out of its new building at 700 Main St., the site of the first telephone call and the former headquarters of Polaroid.

Massachusetts Life Sciences Center’s Susan Windham-Bannister said the company has been able to leverage the initial $5 million grant to raise “nearly three times” that amount in matching funds, in-kind services and state-of-the-art equipment. The grants are part of a plan to invest $1 billion over 10 years to foster growth in the state’s life sciences industry.

“The decision to make these investments back-to-back made a lot of strategic sense for us in the Life Sciences Center,” Windham-Bannister said. “It’s been a great return on the initial investment.”

The business model is already attracting attention around the world. Life sciences companies looking to start their own labs still face a number of hurdles, Freuhauf said, because the capital investment costs are so high.

“The build-out costs and time delays tend to be a significant hurdle, especially for lab-based companies,” Fruehaufsaid. “This is accentuated in a competitive environment where there is less capital available.”

LabCentral makes it easier for the companies to get up and going, which is a great way to accelerate growth, said MIT President Rafael Reif.

“We are convinced that we can accelerate the process of turning discovering and innovations into the solutions that the world needs,” Reif said. “One of the best ways to do this is to make it easier for people with great ideas to get them to the market.”

With strong industry support and a selective process for companies that share the space, Fruehauf said he expects that within five years, companies emerging out of LabCentral will contribute 500 new jobs.

LabCentral’s co-founders include Peter Parker, CEO of BioInnovation, and Tim Rowe, founder and CEO of the Cambridge Innovation Center, which is home to 450 startup companies. In addition to providing office space and lab equipment, LabCentral’s staff and partners are available for residents’ needs and work to eliminate road blocks to growth.

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