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This new EDA grant will establish a LifeX Life Science Startup Hub

The $2 million award from the federal Build to Scale program will focus on scaling LifeX’s accelerator and commercialization initiatives in Pittsburgh and the wider region.

SouthSide Works, where LifeX HQ was based until November 2023. (Courtesy LifeX)
Shortly after its EDA Tech Hubs designation snub, Pittsburgh’s life sciences community is getting a different kind of federal boost.

Startup support org LifeX was named one of 60 recipients of the 2023 Build to Scale grants from the US Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA).

The annual Build to Scale program distributes millions — this year, $53 million — to organizations that support technology entrepreneurs and encourage innovation. By making tech ecosystems stronger, the administration hopes the economy as a whole will be strengthened, per a government statement.

LifeX Holdings received $2 million from Build to Scale’s 2023 Venture Challenge for its LifeX Life Science Startup Hub project; this money will be coupled with a local match of $2 million. The new funding extends the efforts of a previous EDA i6 Challenge award that launched the LifeX Accelerator, through which digital health, medtech and life science-minded startups receive hands-on support from experts in their field. (Meet the six startups in the fall 2023 cohort here.)

The new award will focus on scaling LifeX’s ongoing accelerator and commercialization initiatives “in both capacity and geography,” according to the announcement, “and to create a focal hub for life science entrepreneurial activity across the Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and Mid-Atlantic region.”

LifeX will also prioritize boosting and diversifying the local life science workforce, with an emphasis on diversity — a goal frequently cited by Pittsburgh innovation leaders.

Earlier this year, while discussing Pittsburgh’s rising reputation as a prominent US life sciences hub, LifeX Director of Ecosystem Development Kelly Collier told the city is attractive to such companies because of its scientific expertise and high volume of life sciences graduates from the region’s universities.

“A lot of these technologies originate here because we have such powerful research and development engines at Pitt and Carnegie Mellon and UPMC,” Collier said then. “So a lot of this stuff from a clinical and scientific side develops here, originates here. And a lot of that clinical and scientific expertise is here in those institutions.”

Collier was not immediately available to respond to’s request for comment on the Build to Scale award. We’ll update this story when we hear back.

In 2022, Innovation Works and partner Carnegie Mellon University got $2 million in EDA Venture Challenge funding for their project called Scaling Networks in Southwestern Pennsylvania, which focused on scaling “entrepreneurial support services” with a focus on underserved communities.

“EDA is proud to partner with this year’s ‘Build to Scale’ grantees as they fuel regional innovation hubs and technology-based economic development strategies throughout the U.S.,” Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Alejandra Y. Castillo said in a written statement. “Investing in scalable startups and expanding access [to] entrepreneurial capital will yield good-paying jobs, economic resiliency, and equitable growth in communities throughout America.”

The announcement comes on the heels of a visit from First Lady Jill Biden, who spoke at Mill 19 in Hazelwood Green on Wednesday in support of the Workforce Talent Hub designation the region received from the White House back in June. With workforce development agency Partner4Work serving as Pittsburgh’s anchor for the program, the region is receiving dedicated resources for apprenticeship programs, tech training and other talent development-related support.

Companies: LifeX / U.S. Economic Development Administration

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