Already dubbed the most innovative square mile on earth, Kendall Square is about to add another notch to its ingenuity quotient. LabCentral has announced its intention to essentially double its Kendall Square footprint in 2021 with the establishment of a new incubator focused on scale-up biomanufacturing. LabCentral 238—the name is a nod to its 238 Main Street address—will feature 100K square feet of shared office and laboratory space where companies can conduct process development studies. Unlike the original LabCentral incubator, LabCentral 238 will host startups that have cleared preliminary research hurdles and are headed eventually for clinical trials. The new venture will be developed on a site located on two floors of the 100-year-old Kendall Building. Distinguished by its historic clock tower, the building is being expanded to 12 stories with an adjacent addition. The German pharmaceutical powerhouse Bayer AG is expected to occupy a large swath of the space.
Astellas Pharma invests $12.5M in LabCentral 238
The LabCentral 238 initiative is made possible by a $12.5M investment from Tokyo-based pharmaceutical company Astellas Pharma and a grant from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center. MIT Sloan Fellows Program alumnus Percival Baretto-Ko SF ’11 is Astellas Pharma president. The company will invest an additional $450K over three years to become a Gold Sponsor of LabCentral’s existing Kendall Square incubator at 700 Main Street, which has grown rapidly since it was established in 2013.
LabCentral 238 will make prototypes of the drugs on a fast track and at a lower cost. The drugs won’t meet the standards needed for clinical trials, but if a product seems promising, the startup will pay manufacturers to produce them at the necessary standard for clinical trials. Producing lower-cost prototypes at a faster rate will mean a greater number of life-saving drugs have a chance of reaching consumers sooner.
LabCentral takes inspiration from the energy of its neighborhood at the edge of the MIT campus and the legacy of innovation that preceded its tenancy. Its 700 Main Street location is the very place where Thomas A. Watson received that legendary first long-distance phone call in the 1800s. A century later, Polaroid founder Edwin Land established an office here. Today, more than 300 scientists and entrepreneurs from 70 startups rent lab benches and office space at 700 Main.
“We need more access to innovative startup companies,” Yoshitsugu Shitaka, president of the Astellas Institute for Regenerative Medicine, recently told the Boston Globe, “especially in the cell therapy and gene therapy space.” The two LabCentral incubators should do just that. Young biotech enterprises are drawn to the extraordinary amenities, including access to millions of dollars in laboratory equipment and face time with local drug developers. For global biotech companies like Astellas, the LabCentral cluster is a hothouse worth watching.
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