The state is investing $5 million in a new biotech innovation zone in Bucks, Philly | So Good News
DOYLESTOWN, PA – Pennsylvania is investing $5 million in a new Academic Innovation Zone in Bucks and Philadelphia counties through the Pennsylvania Biotechnology Center.
The announcement was made in Buckingham Township by state Sen. Steve Santarciero and CEOs of the nonprofit Pennsylvania Biotechnology Center and Brandywine Realty Trust.
Funding is split evenly between PABC’s two life science incubators—its headquarters and seed incubator in Buckingham, and the B+ Labs at the Sira Center in Philadelphia. B+labs is managed by PABC in partnership with Brandywine Realty Trust.
The Academic Innovation Zone initiative directly supports early-stage life sciences companies and academic technologies in incubators in Bucks County and Philadelphia.
More than 100 companies, mainly small and medium-sized scientific, research and pharmaceutical enterprises, are PABC member companies. About 50 of them work in Bucks County, and 15 are located at B+ Labs.
“This large grant not only allows us to expand our services to help promising companies grow, it is an important statement of confidence in PABC from some of the state’s top elected officials,” said Luis P. Cassa III, MPA, president and CEO of PABC. . “The Pennsylvania Biotechnology Center has created several thousand new jobs and generated more than $10 billion in economic impact over the past 16 years, and the Academic Innovation Zone will greatly enhance and accelerate our efforts.”
Cassa said credit for the investment goes to state Sen. Vincent Hughes of Philadelphia, Sen. Steve Santarciero of Bucks County and state Rep. Matt Bradford of Montgomery County. All three visited PABC last year to see the operation first hand.
Santarsiero said biotech investments like the one announced this week could help transform Pennsylvania’s economy.
“We have the opportunity to build a biotech corridor starting in Bucks County that will connect with other hubs in Pennsylvania and allow us to compete with other states and countries in this industry,” he said. “This is an important investment, but as a country we still have a lot to do.
“I know that (expanding Pennsylvania’s biotech industry) is a clear goal of Governor-elect Josh Shapiro. My colleagues and I look forward to working with him as he plans to move forward. I’m really excited to see what happens in the next couple of years. Pennsylvania will be an important place where investment and growth in this area will lead to great success for our residents and the entire region.”
Cassa also thanked Jerry Sweeney, president and CEO of Brandywine Realty Trust, for his instrumental role in developing the PABC Academic Innovation Zone concept.
Jerry Sweeney, president and CEO of Brandywine Realty Trust, said, “The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has an incredible opportunity to accelerate this moment of rapid growth as a top life science market.” “This statewide commitment allows us to implement a key program that will not only bring more companies and talent to the region, but also keep them here and establish Greater Philadelphia as the best place to start and grow a life science company.”
The Academic Innovation Zone program provides affordable laboratory and business services for rapid use by entrepreneurs or start-up companies with promising ideas but limited resources.
The program has three specific objectives:
- Talent Acquisition: Staff seek and solicit new programmatic innovations using regional academic, non-profit and public research institutions and promote this activity to large pharmaceutical companies looking to spin-off early-stage companies.
- Recruiting talent and innovation: Entrepreneurs apply to use labs and services, and a committee of experts selects the most promising and potential candidates from the space and services.
- Research Space and Professional Services: State-of-the-art biology and chemistry research laboratories will be designated for this program. Proposals and entrepreneurs selected for this program will have access to professional services, including lab space to help plan business creation and seek additional financing.
“Pennsylvania needs an initiative like this,” officials said. “The state ranks 4th in patents and 5th in the nation in funding for the National Institutes of Health, with 88 universities and colleges within a 50-mile radius of Philadelphia.
But a 2019 report from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development shows that Pennsylvania “consistently lags behind the state in consistently increasing its support for entrepreneurship and technology-based economic development initiatives.”
Funding for PABC’s Academic Innovation Zone (AIZ) is a one-year pilot grant through the Pennsylvania Department of Public Health and totals $5 million. The largest share goes to the company’s employees, first of all, scientific employees and management. The grant will also fund equipment, supplies and services at both locations.
The AIZ plan aims to accelerate early-stage companies and technologies through the highly successful PABC model. The goals are scientific achievements and economic development.
PABC’s Doylestown campus, which opened in 2006, includes a two-story building completed late last year, providing new laboratories, conference rooms, offices and event space. PABC has received more than $9 million in grants from federal and state agencies for expansion.
The B+ Labs at Cyra Center span three floors of a stunning high-rise in University City, adjacent to Amtrak’s 30th Street Station. Life science leaders working at B+ Labs include Asklepios Biopharmaceutical (AskBio), BriaCell Therapeutics, Carisma Therapeutics, Quanta Therapeutics, Synapticure, Tmunity Therapeutics and Vitara Biomedical.