Courtesy GSC Architects
The Texas Life-sciences Collaboration Center in Georgetown has added three new biotechnology companies since March.
“We’ve found more and more companies that don’t necessarily need office space, but they need wet lab space,” TLCC Executive Director Russ Peterman said. “It’s a little different paradigm from what we’ve been doing.”
Xeris Pharmaceuticals and Celling Biosciences both operate offices in Austin but found it difficult to find wet lab space to do necessary research, company officials said. Wet labs have specialized piped utilities and ventilation and are primarily used in bioscience.
Wet lab shortage
“There is a scarcity of wet lab space in Austin, but we really like the TLCC for a variety of reasons. It’s a new facility. It’s very clean; it’s very modern. We were able to customize it for our own needs, and it was also affordable,” said Nancy Scott, director of product development for Xeris Pharmaceuticals. “It was the best option that we had of everything that was available to us. It really fit our needs very well.”
Scott said the company, which develops injectable therapeutics to treat endocrine, metabolic and neurologic diseases in patient-friendly devices, is expecting to begin operations in TLCC in April.
“We have our own dedicated space there … we also really like how there were other startup companies there, and we have the opportunity to share resources and take advantage of some of the economic development grants that we could possibly get for shared equipment through the City of Georgetown and the TLCC,” she said, adding that the company plans to take advantage of another partnership the center established with Austin Community College in 2011.
“That gives us even broader access to state-of-the-art equipment and lab space and interns,” Scott said.
In March 2011, TLCC signed a memorandum of understanding with ACC to provide internships and other opportunities for staff and students.
“This is the first example of how [the partnership is] going to work,” Peterman said. “[Xeris will be] using ACC interns and collaborating with ACC staff and using their labs. It’s a great example of how a collaboration should work.”
Celling Biosciences began using shared lab space with another TLCC member company, Molecular Templates, nearly one year ago, Chief Scientific Officer Jim Poser said.
“We are located in South Austin, so it is a little bit of a run for us up to Georgetown, but it is more than compensated by our having access to the facility that we need at this particular time,” Poser said. “So it is extremely cost-effective and reasonably convenient and gives us what we need.”
The company is using the space to understand how adult stem cells work and develop techniques that can be used during orthopedic procedures.
Poser said the experiments conducted in TLCC’s wet labs will help scientists to be able to perform consistent techniques in the operating room. A patient’s stem cells would be harvested from and implanted in the patient at the time of the procedure.
The company could expand its presence at the collaboration center as space becomes available and is needed to perform necessary research.
More growth, expansion
A third company, DisperSol Technologies, established offices at TLCC in March and will soon finish construction on lab space, Peterman said.
The company is developing a method to take non–water soluble medicines that typically must be injected and compounding its molecules with water-soluble molecules to allow patients to take the medicine orally, he said.
With the new additions, TLCC now has eight member companies, and Peterman said he expects to add more in the next year as the center plans to expand into a second building.
“We are very confident if we had a new building in place, we could fill it up,” he said. “Our business has really taken off over the last six to eight months. There has been a lot of pent-up demand, and now the floodgates are open. The sooner we can get a new building up, the sooner we can fill it up.”
Peterman said TLCC could break ground on the 15,000-square-foot space by the summer, and he hopes to have the building finished by the end of the year.
TLCC will seek a Good Manufacturing Practices certification for the building from the Food and Drug Administration, which means it could be approved by the FDA to do pharmaceutical development.
“It will be a big investment and give us the capability to attract other pharmaceutical companies,” Peterman said.
Since its inception in 2007, the biotechnology accelerator that provides office space, wet laboratories, mentoring and a network of resources to developing life-sciences companies has created 55 jobs in Georgetown, Peterman said.
“We’ve almost exceeded by a factor of two the number of jobs we committed to have through our City of Georgetown incentive agreement,” Peterman said. “So I would say it has been very successful.”
Xeris Pharmaceuticals and DisperSol Technologies are both expected to add eight jobs, and Celling Technologies will add three or four jobs to the center, Peterman said.
“The whole idea of what the TLCC is doing is creating high-paying professional jobs in the life-science industry,” Peterman said. “Because the industry is growing at a nice clip, we expect it will continue to create more and more jobs.”
Texas Life-sciences Collaboration Center, 111 Cooperative Way, Ste. 200, www.texaslifesciences.com