BioScience Lab opens at Santa Fe Business Incubator

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The Santa Fe Business Incubator unveiled its new BioScience Lab on Tuesday to a crowd of dignitaries that included Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Rep. Ben Ray Luján, (D-N.M.).
“What’s happening now with the Santa Fe Incubator and the BioScience Lab is a shot of growth, a new opportunity, where it’s not just experts and researchers and entrepreneurs here from Santa Fe, here from New Mexico,” Luján said.
“It’s from the surrounding states, from cities that aren’t so close to us, that are looking to come here because of the investment that the Business Incubator has made with the support of the Department of Commerce and the Economic Development Administration, an investment in technology that’s not readily available to everyone else.”
The BioScience Lab is a state-of-the-art cell biology and molecular biology facility designed to encourage, attract and support life science companies in the biotech sector. The lab’s specialized equipment includes bio-safety cabinets, ultra low temperature freezers, an ultracentrifuge, inverted fluorescence microscope and a real-time PCR system.
Companies will be able to access the facility on a short-term basis, eliminating the need to invest startup capital in expensive equipment.
Pooling resources is one of the incubator’s founding principles. Since opening its doors in 1997, SFBI has spawned 125 businesses, 900 high-paying jobs and more than $100 million in revenues.
Udall praised the enterprise’s accomplishments.
“This is an incredible model. It’s a public/private partnership model. And for over 25 years it’s been working with our national laboratories, with our universities, supporting new entrepreneurs and helping grow our economy,” Udall said, vowing to use his position on the appropriations committee to support models such as this.
“This is the kind of thing we’re going to have to invest in. We’re going to have to support to have the economic growth we need.”
New Mexico’s entire congressional delegation signed a letter urging the U.S. Economic Development Administration to support the BioScience Lab project, which was awarded a $1.25 million EDA grant.
EDA Regional Director Pedro Garza, whom Udall called “the money,” attended the opening.
“I read somewhere that your frame of reference should not be the past. Your frame of reference should be the future, and moving forward. And I think this BioScience Lab, their frame of reference is the future, not the past,” Garza said.
Garza spoke fondly of this project and others the EDA has funded in New Mexico.
“These are the EDA’s children,” Garza said. “We raised them, and they grew up to be good kids, and they’re hugely successful and we’re very proud of them.”
Los Alamos National Laboratory was also acknowledged for its role in the startup. SFBI President and CEO Marie Longserre announced that the last piece of equipment on their wish list, a flow cytometer, had been purchased with the help of a $10,000 grant from LANL.
The cytometer is an outgrowth of technology developed over four decades at LANL.
“The acoustic cytometer is our second most successful spinout from Los Alamos in the area of bioscience,” said Duncan McBranch, LANL’s chief technology officer. “The first most successful was the Human Genome Project, and most people don’t realize that came from Los Alamos.”
The cytometer also represents another important aspect of SFBI and the BioScience Lab’s mission: tech transfer from the national laboratories and universities to the commercial market.
In a press release about the purchase, David Pesiri, leader of the Richard P. Feynman Center for Innovation (FCI), the laboratory’s technology transfer organization, said,
“It’s fitting that the technology is coming back home to help boost the high-tech economy in the region. Not only did flow cytometers revolutionize the Human Genome Project, but this technology from the national laboratories is saving lives and delivering value to the marketplace.”
Sales for the flow cytometer surpassed $30 million in sales in the past five years.
“It’s going to be one of the top instruments in the biotechnology industry,” McBranch said.
Acoustic Cytometry, the company producing the flow cytometer, had its startup at SFBI 16 years ago.
Brian McGlynn, President and CEO of BioDirections, the lab’s first client, was also on hand.
BioDirections will use the lab’s facilities in its quest to develop a low cost, portable, rapid point-of-care diagnostic device to screen for mild traumatic brain injury.
“The collaborator I was already working with had found his start here, and then you put in this magnificent lab…” McGlynn said. “And, quite honestly, when you’re dealing with biological and some of the processes, that lab becomes something that most private companies cannot afford. You can’t put those pieces together.
“The work we’re going to do here will allow us to launch next year, and there are a lot of lives that are going to be saved.”
Both Udall and Luján stressed the role the BioScience Lab will play in technology transfer for commercial development.
If passed, Udall’s Accelerating Technology Transfer to Advance Innovation for the Nation (ATTAIN) Act would facilitate that process.
“There’s an inherent benefit from transferring this technology and opening up opportunities with our businesses and engineers, and giving them a path forward to work with entrepreneurs, making sure that business practice is going to embrace the brightest and best of what we have here in New Mexico,” Luján said.
“This is critically important. This is an example of what happens when partnerships come together.”