Biomedical professionals aspiring to develop a new medical device or biotech innovation will soon have access to a resource critical for early-stage bioscience product development. A new research and development-focused laboratory space named Co-Labs broke ground Friday morning in San Antonio’s Eastside.
The Texas Research & Technology Foundation (TRTF) and its nonprofit subsidiary VelocityTX have been working with community leaders to plan, develop, and supply Co-Labs with the right resources to support aspiring biomedical entrepreneurs and researchers.
The U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration awarded $4 million in federal funding to TRTF for constructing and operating six fully-equipped bioscience laboratories. The 5,000-square-foot state-of-the-art laboratory facility is scheduled to open in 2023.
VelocityTX was established in 2017 as a TRTF subsidiary to help early-stage bioscience companies launch innovative breakthroughs. They help early-stage bioscience companies tackle innovative breakthroughs with developmental programming via its BioGlobal Accelerator program.
VelocityTX will operate and support the new lab spaces, recruiting and evaluating potential Co-Labs users through the support of its Community Advisory Committee. Co-Lab tenants will have access to VelocityTX’s educational sessions, mentorship, business coaching, and connections to prospective investors.
The Co-Lab facility will include six fully equipped Biological Safety Level 2 labs that independent or institutional researchers and startup companies can rent to help develop their innovative ideas in bioscience. These levels, ranked from one to four, are selected based on the agents or organisms being researched or worked on in any given laboratory setting.
The BSL-2 lab spaces will enable researchers to work with agents associated causing human diseases that pose a moderate health hazard, such as equine encephalitis viruses and HIV. Typically, researchers work in labs supplied by either an educational institution where the work is done or at a facility provided by a large biomedical enterprise company like Johnson and Johnson.
However, for early-stage startups, the expense of building and equipping a lab facility is not a feasible expense for an emerging company. San Antonio currently has rentable lab space at Crown Scientific and a cadaver lab, prototyping facility, and biomedical clean manufacturing space at NVision in Shavano Park. Both have BSL-2 spaces for startups.
Given how the bioscience and healthcare sectors employ one in six people in San Antonio, there’s simply not enough rentable lab facilities with specialized equipment to supply entrepreneurial demand, VelocityTX CEO David Fonseca said. “This is the first BSL-2 laboratory space available for the community to use,” he added.
Equipment available for Co-Lab tenants includes microscopes, refrigerators and freezers, autoclaves with a freeze dryer, high-speed centrifuges, and a deionized water system. Individual space can be rented by the laboratory bench or for a private lab, with annual lease options for dedicated lab space. Shared lab spaces will have monthly and yearly lease options.
Non-lab spaces will include a lounge area with small private rooms, group table working areas, and a coffee area. Pricing will range between $1,000 – $1,500 per month, depending on the lease and space options selected.
The Co-Labs building is located in the heart of the Merchants Ice Cold Storage Complex, with VelocityTX located in TRTF’s adjacent 17,000-square-foot Innovation Center. It is surrounded by leading-edge bioscience companies like GenCure, Scorpion Biological Services, and other startups.
“Today is an exciting milestone in the history and future of TRTF,” said Rene Dominguez, TRTF president and COO. “The Co-Labs is a perfect addition to the bioscience ecosystem that is driving a new generation of economic development for our community.”
The featured image is of the entrance to VelocityTX, courtesy image