Cities and Regions Invest in the Life Sciences to Bolster Economic Growth

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Many cities, regions and states have an interest in developing the life sciences—biotech, pharma, diagnostics and medical devices companies—as being drivers of the economy, creating good-paying jobs both directly and indirectly. Here’s a look at recent news concerning some of these efforts around the country.

Helix 51, a Bioscience Incubator, to Open in Lakes County, Illinois

Helix 51 is expected to launch in Lake County, Illinois, serving northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin. The incubator will be 5,400 square feet and host therapeutic, diagnostics and medical device startups from the region. The incubator is planned to move into space created by the Innovation and Research Park (IRP), a 100,000 square-foot building that will be completed in the fall of 2019. Helix 51 was supported by $2.5 million in funding via tax credits under a federal program that supports investments for jobs and job-training in low-income communities.

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BioBus Program Launches near Halletts Cove in New York City

New York City Councilman Costa Constantinides, the New York City Economic Development Corporation and the Astoria Houses Tenant Association has launched the BioBus program near Halletts Cove. The mobile science laboratory is designed to provide students of all ages with free marine educational programming and training for STEM careers. The BioBus comes with microscopes and is staffed by scientists who train students on how to run research projects focused on the marine ecology of Halletts Cove Park.

Merck Working with 2 Universities on Curriculum and Training Programs

Merck & Co. is teaming with Blue Ridge Community College and James Madison University in Virginia to develop curriculum and training programs focused on biotechnology, process engineering and job development. The company is in the process of investing up to $1 billion over the next three years to expand its manufacturing operations at its Elkton facility in Rockingham County to increase production of its human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines. That expansion is expected to create 100 new jobs, bringing the manufacturing site’s staff to more than 1,000. As a result, Blue Ridge and James Madison are bolstering their programs related to biosciences and biomanufacturing, as well as developing post-education manufacturing boot camps.

Bucks County, Pennsylvania Launching $50 Million Bio Fund in 2020

Buckingham, Pennsylvania’s Pennsylvania Biotechnology Center (PABC) plans a $50 million Hatch Bio Fund in 2020. This fund is designed to support dozens of entrepreneurs. The center is expanding its campus by 34,000 square feet, which will open later this year, giving it 35 to 40% more space.

“If we do this right, we could become a biotech corridor,” said Lou Kassa, vice president and chief operating officer for PABC. “Instead of 350 jobs on-site, we someday could have 3,000 jobs on site.”

The PABC launched in 2001 with a $7.9 million state grant. Now it is managed by the Baruch S. Blumberg Institute, a nonprofit working to cure hepatitis B and liver cancer. Vladimir Walko, a former senior executive with West Pharmaceutical Services, will manage the new fund.

SNP Therapeutics Joins North Carolina Research Campus

SNP Therapeutics was created a year ago in laboratories at the North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis, North Carolina. The company has now come out with its first products and with a startup grant from NCBioTech, is expected to begin hiring this fall. SNP is developing four medical food products and one prenatal supplement. They will offer a specific genetic test for each product to determine who is appropriate for which product. Its first supplement is designed for pregnant women who have difficulty producing or utilizing choline and other “1-carbon” molecules critical to fetal development.

Pasadena Bio Collaborative Incubator Gaining Steam

Part of the city of Pasadena, California’s economic growth plan is the life sciences. That focus is helped along by the Pasadena Bio Collaborative Incubator, which has a three-part mission: provide space to startup science companies, help the companies develop business plans, and provide students in the area with an opportunity to develop industry-related skills. The incubator has grown from 500 feet in 2004 to 12,700 square feet today, with 69 companies having grown there, 20 of which have moved on after they grew too big. Some have been acquired while others have received funding to stay in the city.

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