San Jose incubator cultivates life-sciences startups (photos)
A partnership with city government, the San Jose BioCenter provides labs, equipment, and support for startups.
San Jose BioCenter
Back in 2004, the city of San Jose, Calif., invested $6 million in an incubator that has since helped hundreds of startups get off the ground.
Today, the San Jose BioCenter is a state-of-the-art life sciences incubator, recognized in 2009 by the National Business Incubation Association as the best incubator in the world. The center provides "wet" laboratories, research equipment, and commercialization support to life sciences and other emerging-tech companies.
One advantage of operating from within an incubator like the San Jose BioCenter is that small companies with just a few people can essentially act like they're operating as a department with a larger company.
The center provides operational support, in addition to the perk of being surrounded by other startups. Young companies often fail because they lack resources; the center says its support services provide infrastructure that companies need to succeed.
It offers conference facilities, chemical analytics labs, tissue culture facilities, cold rooms, and a biology lab--all serviced and maintained by the center and available 24 hours a day.
Genista Biosciences, seen here, is an biotech offering customized gene expression products and services designed for faster, cost-effective biomarker discovery and validation using real-time Polymerase Chain Reaction technology.
After opening in 2004, the center took about a year to grow to its full capacity and has been full ever since. About two dozen companies are currently part of the center.
The terms of the leases are 90 days, then go to month to month. The leases are designed to give companies the flexibility to move out when they outgrow the facility, or to take over other labs and expand their presence there.
Affiliate members that would just need access to equipment can use the analytic and diagnostic gear without having to occupy lab space. Such companies can come in on an hourly basis to use the equipment themselves or have tests performed by center staff.
Quarterly safety meetings ensure that residents know how to proceed with the sometimes dangerous chemicals on site. The center maintains all chemicals in order to keep the facility safe.
All emergency supplies and spill stations are maintained by the BioCenter. The wet lab suites are equipped with central deionized water and vacuum systems, fume hoods, emergency showers, eye-wash stations, hazardous materials storage, and emergency power outlets.
Shared equipment facilities include a Eppendorf MiniSpin Centrifuge, seen here, in addition to a Thermocycler, negative-80 degrees freezers, hot plates, analytical balances, 5+/-3 degree fridges, liquid nitrogen dewars, and pH meters.
An Aridis Pharmaceuticals technician measures metal concentrations in samples in its labs at the San Jose BioCenter. Using a freeze-drying technique, Aridis is developing drugs to treat infectious diseases in remote and developing regions.
The ChemLabs and BioLabs at the BioCenter gives residents access to expensive equipment such as a nuclear magnetic resonance machine, mass spectrometers, cytometers, electron microscopes, luminometers, and freeze dryers.
Center staff takes care of supports duties. A central receptionist answers phones, and the staff manages shipping and receiving, janitorial services, and security. There is also a kitchen, breakroom, and a full-service copy and print center.
Central to contemporary pharmaceutical and diagnostic development is the unrelenting pursuit of tight binding molecules, or binders.
Once a molecular target is identified, SingleCell Technologies searches for binders that attach quickly, stay on for the desired period of time, bind to the exact site and that site alone, and elicit the desired diagnostic or biological response.