Bioscience officials expect new facility to pay off

Sam Boeser

Fund raising for a new $20 million bioscience incubator, a center where startup bioscience companies conduct research and develop technologies, finished Friday.

Bioscience incubators exist across the country, but this will be the first in Minnesota. Bioscience officials said the facility will not only help companies get started, it could be very important to the state’s economy.

“This will create hundreds if not thousands of jobs,” said Peter Bianco, the University Enterprise Laboratories chief executive officer. “And these new companies could stay in Minnesota.”

The University Enterprise Laboratories will build the facility in a renovated building at the northwest intersection of University Avenue and Highway 280.

Bioscience experts in the organization and the University said the building could help many students and faculty members develop bioscience technologies for public use.

The building will include offices and wet-lab space to encourage the growth of biology and biotechnology companies.

University Enterprise Laboratories is a separate nonprofit organization that was created in 2002 in a partnership between the University, the University Foundation, St. Paul and Xcel Energy.

Besides prompting growth in bioscience startup companies, the nonprofit organization officials said they hope to offer their labs for students and faculty members to help the state grow economically in biology.

According to the local bioscience organization MNBIO, University faculty members create many startup companies each year and bring in $500 million a year in sponsored research funds.

College of Biological Sciences Dean Bob Elde is also the board chairman for University Enterprise Laboratories.

“One reason it’s really important for faculty and students is that there are ideas that could lead to commercialization,” Elde said.

According to University Enterprise Laboratories, approximately 60 new technologies from the University could turn into startup companies and might need lab space in the new center.

“With this, we’re hoping more biotech students remain in Minnesota,” Elde said.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison and Iowa State University also have bioscience incubators, but none as large as the planned facility, Bianco said.

The building will also be in St. Paul’s bioscience zone, so bioscience companies will receive increased tax revenues, which should also help to promote bioscience startup companies, Bianco said.

“It’s the perfect location,” he said.

The office space within the new facility is already fully leased, and the wet-lab space is being bought up quickly too, he said.

Approximately $9 million of funding for the project came from Minnesota corporations, according to MNBIO’s Web site.

Demand for space in the facility has sped up recently, which has motivated officials to speed up renovation plans, Bianco said. The opening date of the facility is unknown at this time, he said.