COVID-19 / Hiring / Life sciences / Tech jobs / Workplace culture

Check out Integral Molecular’s new research center in University City

The life sciences R&D company just moved into the One uCity building. The space will accommodate the company's growth over the last few years, including the work it's done to support COVID-19 research.

Ribbon cutting in Integral Molecular's new lab space. Mayor Jim Kenney is fourth from right. (Courtesy photo)

Integral Molecular has called University City home for the last two decades, with spaces in the University City Science Center as its home base for most of that time.

But the life sciences company just opened a new headquarters, as the first company to move into the One uCity building in the uCity Square Innovation Community in University City.

The company, which focuses on research and development of therapeutic antibodies, hosted a ceremonial ribbon cutting and opening party last Thursday to celebrate its new office space and research facilities. This space will allow for 100 new hires and can accommodate up to 200 employees.

Pre-pandemic, Integral Molecular was operating at two sites in Philly with plans to move into the One uCity Building. The company has both hybrid and remote employees, but they’ve all been able to come into this new office space since January 2023.

Lab equipment

Integral Molecular’s new lab space. (Photo by Sarah Huffman)

Riley Payne, director of antibody discovery at Integral Molecular, told during a tour of the new digs that he is excited not just for the company to be back in one space, but to be surrounded by other biotech companies and those in related fields in the building. Also top of mind: the discoveries that will eventually come out of this lab space.

“We’ve scaled up so much the volumes of production that we’re doing now, shipping, all of the materials that go into it simply take a lot more people, a lot more space than we’d ever needed before,” Payne said. “I will say I think we have done a good job and I’m excited about the room we do still have to expand. And I think we’ve got a lot of big plans to use that.”

Kyle Doolan, Integral Molecular’s director of research, said he is particularly excited about dedicated space for quantitative biology and next generation sequencing.

Back in 2020, Integral Molecular was using its background in virology to help the effort of researching technologies that could support potential COVID-19 treatments and vaccines.

“The company was born out of the virology field, and so we returned to that and have developed these reporter virus particles [RVPs], which are pseudo virus particles that can be used to evaluate the efficacy of vaccines and therapeutics,” Doolan said.

The company launched SARS-CoV-2 RVPs in April 2020. According to Soma Banik, director of scientific communications and public relations at Integral Molecular, these particles were used to help test immune responses to vaccines. Since then, the company continues to develop RVPs that address all of the COVID-19 variants.

Kyle Doolan wearing a lab coat in the lab.

Kyle Doolan. (Photo by Sarah Huffman)

Doolan said much of the company’s virology work started through the Zika and Ebola viruses, and the company has been developing pseudo viruses for many years. He said the company took knowledge it already had and adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“What we offer with our pseudo viruses is an opportunity to work with something that looks identical or nearly identical on the surface, and acts like the virus but has none of the genome associated with it,” he said. “It’s a way for labs across the country and across the world to work with things without endangering the lab facilities and the workers there. But also to work in a safe way to prevent the next pandemic.”

lab equipment

Integral Molecular’s new lab space. (Photo by Sarah Huffman)

Payne said the company has also been making progress with other therapeutic molecules, for example addressing immuno-oncology and nonopioid pain relief. Payne said the company has partnerships for three different molecules that they hope to go through animal testing and into clinical testing over the next couple of years. He added that Integral Molecular has worked with mRNA technology, which was used in developing the COVID-19 vaccine, as a way to generate and discover therapeutic molecules for its other research.

“Not only enable others to develop vaccines and drugs, but really have our own pipeline to and take it through the whole process as far as we can to really target the things we have expertise in which really are virology, cancer, pain and autoimmune disease,” he said.

Sarah Huffman is a 2022-2023 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 Lenfest Institute for Journalism.
Companies: Integral Molecular / University City Science Center

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