A biotech startup starts small, often at a single workbench. As the startup grows, its needs for laboratory and office space change.

Since every startup is different, their workspace needs are as well. What works for one emerging company might not work for another. There is no one space that fits every company, or even the same startup at different points in its lifecycle.

Last month, I served on a panel of New York City life science leaders to discuss the need for affordable workspaces in the city. Held by the Metro New York chapter of Women in Bio, the panel included representatives from a variety of initiatives addressing this need for space:

  • Jenna Foger, Senior Principal – Science & Technology for Alexandria Venture Investment,
  • Nicole McKnight, Director of BioLabs New York, and
  • Leslie Stolz, head of Johnson & Johnson Innovation’s JLABS California

Each of these groups is doing their part to create a range of affordable lab and office space options for New York City’s biotech companies. For example, the Alexandria Center for Life Science has created a new incubator, called LaunchLabs, on its East Side Manhattan campus. BioLabs is opening a biotech office and lab co-working space for early-stage companies. Johnson & Johnson Innovation just launched its JLABS @ NYC research facility at the New York Genome Center in Lower Manhattan.

Real estate has always been at a premium in New York City. Making sure that startup companies have room to grow is vital for creating a lasting research hub. While Alexandria, BioLabs and JLABS are focused on developing lab space and a biotech startup community in Manhattan, we, at BioBAT, have our sights set on Brooklyn. And with good reason. Brooklyn is one of the hottest startup hubs in the country. The borough has a thriving culture of entrepreneurship and is home to companies that have gained national prominence – among them, Etsy, Kickstarter, MakerBot, and Vice Media. In addition, the borough of Brooklyn has a long history with healthcare – both Pfizer and Squibb (now part of Bristol-Myers Squibb) were founded here. More recently, Brooklyn’s biotech community has grown to include, among others, medical device company Cresilon (formerly Suneris), and open access lab and educational center Genspace. Company founders that come to Brooklyn are attracted by lower rents and convenient proximity to Manhattan.

BioBAT wants to ensure that the energy of Brooklyn’s startup boom is funneled towards scientific research. NYC already boasts one of the world’s leading medical research communities, and is a top recipient of NIH funding. New York State and the City of New York are investing nearly $1 billion through programs like LifeSci NYC, to expand and promote the life sciences. With the right opportunities, New York’s life science researchers can benefit from the momentum that is carrying Brooklyn’s technology sector forward.

At BioBAT, a 65,000 square foot section of waterfront space has been renovated and is ready for build-out. This space is ideal for graduates of the city’s existing biotech and technology incubators, as well as new companies moving to New York.

Startups are varied and innovative by nature. Their workspaces need to be as well. Thanks to the efforts of initiatives like those featured at the Women in Bio panel, New York is developing the full range of research options needed for a thriving life science ecosystem. With this combination of affordable space and the city’s already existing talent and academic resources, NYC has the potential to become a biotech hub rivaling Boston and Cambridge.

– Kathleen M. Otto
Executive Director,
BioBAT, Inc.