About this time last year, Biomeme — makers of a rapid COVID-19 test and other diagnostic hardware — had about 35 people in its 10th and Chestnut streets HQ.
Enter a global pandemic. The company, now about 280 employees across the U.S. and about 120 in the Philadelphia region, has outgrown its office. It will join esports company Nerd Street Gamers at a 44,000-square-foot office, lab, testing and manufacturing in a new corporate headquarters at 401 N. Broad St., owned by Netrality, operator of fiber-dense data centers that allow for super-fast internet.
Biomeme currently produces mobile, real time-PCR devices and other testing hardware. It’s currently manufacturing products including a FDA emergency use authorized COVID-19 test.
The move will help the expansion of the company’s manufacturing capacity, and is supported by a $3 million grant from Pennsylvania’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program. It will allow Biomeme to produce more than 10 million tests annually, the company said. Biomeme has been working with Strada Architecture LLC to build out the space to meet all of its office, manufacturing and lab needs.
“The pandemic response has catalyzed growth and expansion quite a bit,” Max Perelman, cofounder and head of business operations of Biomeme, told Technical.ly. “Growth was planned, but maybe not this fast.”
When they were looking for a new space, the team didn’t seriously consider University City, where much of the life sciences and biotech industry is focused. The cost of real estate didn’t seem worth it, Perelman said, and the location “didn’t provide significant additional value.”
The team has overgrown its office space on Chestnut Street, Perelman said, taking over four or five floors at this point. The space in 401 N. Broad St. allows for the potential of additional growth — though they’ll already be close to full capacity when they move in this fall.
“We scaled quite a bit to meet the demands of the pandemic, and I see us being able to handle additional scaling through efficiencies as the team learns new modalities,” Perelman said.
And the team is looking forward to the Netrality building’s utilities when they move. The high-speed internet connections and backup to power means a lot to the manufacturing side of the business, Perelman said. And it was important to stay in Center City, where many of Biomeme’s employees live.
For Perelman and other founders seeing pandemic business booms, the past year has offered sort of a crash-course in explosive growth. Top tips include hiring your head of human resources and a CFO early on, and figuring out to grow respectfully, with culture in mind, and safely: The company implemented daily COVID-19 testing for its staff and if a positive case was detected, the manager of that department would handle the disinfecting process, Perelman said.
“You see a lot in the press of corporate executives calling in favors for getting vaccinated first, and I think that rubbed me the wrong way,” he said. “You start to see cracks within the culture. We wanted to do something to demonstrate that it wasn’t the case. Everyone is willing to take on risk.”
The end of the pandemic could be some time this year, and the team foresees growth in its non-COVID-related projects. The company’s products are used for wildlife disease surveillance, vector surveillance, aquatic ecology and food and water quality testing, among other uses. And Biomeme is currently hiring across the country for its engineering and quality control teams.
“Netrality is proud to bring Biomeme into our robust ecosystem of life science, digital health and tech-enabled companies that are uncovering cutting edge solutions,” said Gerald Marshall, CEO of Netrality Data Centers said in a statement.