Pittsburgh has another center for life sciences innovation.
On Wednesday, healthcare and life sciences accelerator AlphaLab Health unveiled its new lab and coworking facility for startups in its program at the former Allegheny General Hospital Suburban General Hospital in Bellevue. The accelerator, which is a collaboration between Innovation Works and Allegheny Health Network (AHN), is moving into the new physical home at the former hospital after accepting two rounds of startup cohorts since launching in 2020. Current and future startups in the accelerator will have access to both office and lab space at the facility.
Spanning a total of 10,000 square feet, the new space includes advanced technology for both wet and dry lab space, as well as server access and secure hardline connectivity. The coworking space features two conference rooms and three larger open-concept work areas for collaboration. The wet lab space includes access to equipment like freezers, de-ionized water and more to aid in needed procedures and tests like mass spectrometry.
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These renovations were largely supported by a $500,000 grant from the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development. The hospital campus being redeveloped is one that ceased operations of its inpatient units and emergency department in 2010, but still operates an urgent care center and a number of outpatient clinics.
“Where you’re sitting right now used to be an intensive care unit for Suburban General Hospital and these were actually the rooms that the patients were in,” AHN Chief Physician Executive of Community Health and Innovation Jeff Cohen said in his opening remarks on Wednesday. “And you’re getting an idea of what repurposing the hospital could be, and its impact on the community.”
Also in attendance at the Wednesday event were local officials and industry leaders such as State Senator Wayne Fontana, Innovation Works President and CEO Rich Lunak, Bellevue Mayor Val Pennington and AHN President and CEO Cynthia Hundorfean.
“With the addition of this beautiful new space, we’re taking AlphaLab Health to the next level,” Innovation Works Managing Director of Life Sciences Megan Shaw said at the unveiling event. “Here entrepreneurs, clinicians, investors and people across the community can join and enjoy events, meetings, and other collaborative efforts.”
Shaw added that this new space would enable Innovation Works to further catalyze its investment into the local life sciences industry, after already investing over $20 million into companies into its life sciences portfolio. That funding, she said, has led to over $1.8 billion in follow-on funding for the Pittsburgh region — a number that the resources of this new space should help to grow even more.
AlphaLab Health alone has already launched a number of startups that have hit successful milestones, including Technical.ly RealLIST Startups list makers CytoAgents and Parcel Health. But the program’s growth into this new space is part of a larger trend toward the life sciences industry in Pittsburgh, with a number of companies including Peptilogics, Mindstate Design Labs, Cernostics and Cognition Therapeutics raising significant funding rounds or closing on exits or other milestones. There are efforts toward building more commercialization opportunities from the region’s life sciences expertise, too, most notably with a $100 million grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation to support a new biomanufacturing center at Hazelwood Green.
All of that, Shaw said, is “drawing renewed attention to the Pittsburgh area,” and its rapidly growing life sciences sector.
“The launch of the new AlphaLab Health space builds on this growing traction,” she said, “and we’re excited to help the next generation of life science companies get the full benefit of the AHN-IW partnership to fundamentally accelerate the time it takes to get these products on the market.”Sophie Burkholder is a 2021-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Heinz Endowments.
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