On a Mission: Chester County's First Life Science Incubator
Since April, Doug Pippin has been as lonely as he has been busy building his trio of startup companies inside a large, nearly 20-year old building last occupied by a division of Johnson & Johnson. As the building’s lone tenant, Pippin has quietly used his small chunk of the 40,000 square-foot building to raise the profile of his fledgling businesses, which aim to serve the biopharmaceuticals industry via research services and technologies.
“People know this building. I’ve gained business already just from being there,” says Pippin, who has worked in drug research for nearly two decades and whose company PuriSpec recently entered into an agreement with Jasco
, a major analytical instrument maker, to showcase its Supercritical Fluid Chromatography purification equipment.
“Everybody knows Eagleview is an ideal location.”
While there were many contributors to the Innovation Center’s conception, it would not have happened without the Hankin Group
, developer of the Eagleview complex, an award-winning, 2.5 million square foot corporate community that includes 35 buildings and is home to a host of major companies and surrounded by pharma players like ViroPharma and West Pharmaceuticals.
Hankin CEO Bob Hankin was among those citing the increasingly global nature and right-sizing of biopharma in recent years, and how the Innovation Center aims to keep Chester County competitive. It’s why the mega-developer is committed to offering low-cost space to developing companies, rather than lease to a single, large corporation or convert the labs to a large warehouse.
“It’s a growing and dynamic and creative industry,” says Hankin. “We just can’t sit back.”
The Innovation Center has space for about 10 tenants, with office space ranging from 555 square feet to nearly 10,000. There is also a 6,500 square foot common area and an 880 square foot common lab. There is also room for growth – about 15,000 square feet is available for development.
The roughly 17,000 square feet of chemistry and biology labs is perhaps the space’s biggest selling point. Little had to be done to the space, built in 1994 and left behind by Johnson & Johnson in near move-in condition about two years ago. Space, however, is just part of the equation.
Folks from i2N will also take up an office in the Innovation Center, where they’ll help establish a hub of resources for incubator tenants. Initially, i2N will focus on providing a panel of experts in legal, accounting, regulatory and marketing services to assist Innovation Center companies. i2N Co-Director Mary Fuchs says she will be pursuing relationships with SCORE, Small Business Development Centers and university partners from the region, while using existing funding to purchase more shared equipment for the space.
“We want to be the first point of contact for startups,” says Fuchs, who added that a website for the center will go live within three months. “
The first life science incubator in Chester County is also helping keep highly skilled workers here. Pippin previously worked out of the PA Biotechnology Center
in Doylestown, one of the facilities the Innovation Center was modeled after in addition to Philadelphia’s University City Science Center
and Bethlehem’s Ben Franklin TechVentures
. He had long sought appropriate space near his home in Chester County.
Now he has ample space and soon will have ample resources surrounding him to build his three companies. TransSig is focused on development of novel small molecule signal transduction modulators for unmet clinical needs, including certain cancers and diabetes. PuriSpec enables spectrographic analysis and purification of diverse sets of compounds for numerous applications in drug discovery. Theraceutix is developing and marketing natural topical dermatology products, including a natural over-the-counter cream for eczema.
Surrounded by state-of-the-art lab space, Pippin is confident in the center’s ability to attract the right kind of virtual companies.
“There’s definitely been interest in this space. I think it’s going to fill up quickly,” says Pippin.
JOE PETRUCCI is managing editor of Keystone Edge. Send feedback here.