Economics / Funding / Municipal government / Science / Startups

PA Biotech Center just got $5M from the state for early-stage startups

The one-year grant aims to accelerate life sciences discoveries by young companies, but also support the economic development of the region through new programming.

Pennsylvania Biotech Center leaders receiving a $5 million grant. (Photo courtesy of PABC)

Coming off an election cycle where workforce development in Pennsylvania was a priority for the incoming governor and US Senator from Pennsylvania, a suburban Philadelphia biotech center is getting a few million from the state for early-stage startups.

Doylestown-based Pennsylvania Biotechnology Center (PABC), which guides more than 100 member companies through scientific discoveries and commercialization, is the recipient of a $5 million investment from the State of Pennsylvania’s Department of Health. The funds will go toward PABC’s new Academic Innovation Zone program, which will support early-stage companies and academic technologies in life sciences in two of its incubator programs. PABC is headquartered in Bucks, but also works with B+labs at Philadelphia’s Cira Centre, in partnership with Brandywine Realty Trust.

The Academic Innovation Zone program will offer turnkey lab and business services, available for entrepreneurs or newly formed companies with “promising ideas but limited resources,” PABC said. State Sen. Vincent Hughes of Philadelphia, State Sen. Steve Santarsiero of Bucks County and State Rep. Matt Bradford of Montgomery County worked on getting the funding from the state after visiting PABC last year.

“Investments in biotechnology will help transform Pennsylvania’s economy,” Santarsiero said in a statement. “We have an opportunity to build a biotech corridor, beginning right here in Bucks County, that will connect with other hubs across Pennsylvania and enable us to compete with other states and countries in this industry. This is an important investment, but as a state we still have much more to do.”

The program has three specific aims. First, it will work on talent scouting, where staff will solicit new innovations from academic, nonprofit and government research institutions that are a good fit for the program. They’ll especially promote this service to major pharma companies looking to spin out early-stage companies.

Second, PABC will select talent: Entrepreneurs will apply for use of labs and services, and a committee of experts will choose those that are most promising and likely to benefit from the space and services.

And third, the program will provide the research space and professional services. That includes new bio and chemistry research labs, business formation planning, and help with seeking capital and funding.

The largest share of the one-year, $5 million grant will go toward company personnel, primarily scientific staff and management, PABC said. The grant also will fund equipment, supplies and services at the two locations. The goals of the grant and the Academic Innovation Zone program are both to accelerate the discoveries of early-stage biotech companies, and to improve economic development in the industry and region.

“This sizable grant not only will allow us to expand our services to help promising companies grow, it is a significant statement from some of the state’s top elected officials about their confidence in the PABC,” said Louis P. Kassa, president and CEO of PABC, in a statement. “The Pennsylvania Biotechnology Center has produced several thousand new jobs and generated more than $10 billion dollars in economic impact over the past 16 years, and the Academic Innovation Zone will greatly enhance and accelerate our efforts.”

With its healthcare, robotics, tech, transportation, manufacturing and life sciences industries, Pennsylvania is poised to be a powerhouse of innovation. But it’s yet to live up to its full potential, researchers of an October Brookings Institute report found. With new funding like this, the state could be getting closer.

Companies: Pennsylvania Biotech Center / State of Pennsylvania

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