Bay Area Biotech Incubator Opens Extensive New Lab Facility, Paving Way for Entrepreneurs and Their Innovation

Entrepreneurs / 12th May 2020

Innovation and discovery just got easier for life science entrepreneurs as MBC BioLabs announces the opening of a 30,000 square foot building of incubator lab space in San Carlos, Calif.

Built specifically as a life-science incubator space over the past 18 months, the new facility brings cutting-edge lab equipment, infrastructure and services to innovators and entrepreneurs so they can begin their discovery work virtually immediately.  This is MBC BioLabs’ third campus and its second in San Carlos.  Its first lab opened in San Francisco in 2013.  This “rent a bench” concept is critically important in speeding discovery and empowering entrepreneurial scientists to be fast, frugal, and focused.

“In the first six years the companies in our labs have brought 53 programs to the clinic, produced 13 approved diagnostics, and raised over $4.5 billion – this is just the sort of innovation we need to meet today’s critical healthcare needs,” said Douglas Crawford, general manager of MBC BioLabs. 

Crawford expects to have 19 companies in the new lab immediately and a total of about 50 startups operational in just a few months, performing experiments and aiming to prove concepts and bring new advances to the world.

“We’ve been working very hard to bring this facility online and have seen interest in applicants for lab space spike to all-time highs in just the past month,” Crawford said.  “COVID-19 research is driving some of this, but interest reaches far beyond that.”

To date, MBC BioLabs in San Francisco and San Carlos have helped launch and grow more than 170 companies in its incubators since 2013.  When the third facility is fully occupied, MBC BioLabs will be home to about 125 companies leveraging nearly 80,000 square feet of lab incubator space in total.

MBC BioLabs are entrepreneur-centric.  From bench space to freezer storage to lab supplies, the incubator space sets entrepreneurs up with everything they need to succeed.  Each of the three MBC BioLabs has a complete molecular biology core facility featuring millions of dollars of equipment that allow startups easy access while keeping their costs low from day one.  The cores include plate readers, microscopy, flow cytometry, protein interaction, FPLC, cell analysis and sorting, PCR and qPCR, and much more.  

“At MBC BioLabs, we take care of the routine lab supplies, EH&S, maintenance, upkeep, and logistics, so entrepreneurs can obsess over the science and nothing else,” Crawford said.  “In our incubator labs, entrepreneurs become part of a community of science-minded founders learning, experimenting, and growing together.  It’s very powerful.”

Long-standing corporate partners of MBC BioLabs will also be involved in the new San Carlos facility.  MBC BioLabs oftentimes facilitates business relationships between the entrepreneurs in their labs and its corporate partners such as Johnson & Johnson Innovation’s JLabs, Nitto Denko, AbbVie, Celgene, Amgen, and Astellas.  Access to these leading companies can provide entrepreneurs valuable insights about where to focus their efforts and speeds the pipeline of innovation for the corporate partners.

How it all started

In 2006, Crawford repurposed a utility room at the Mission Bay campus of the University of California and the “QB3 Garage” was born.  As the first technology incubator in the UC system, the Garage was met with skepticism.

Crawford recalls some critics saying, “It’ll never work and it’ll be an intensive care unit for sick companies.” But of the first six startups, four raised Series A venture funding and a fifth was acquired for $25 million – and all within the first two years.

As word spread about the advantages of the shared incubator space, demand increased as well. Entrepreneurial scientists were drawn to the easy access of lab benches and equipment and the camaraderie of being around other entrepreneurs. With that in mind, Crawford leased and completely transformed a warehouse in San Francisco in 2013, which became the first MBC BioLabs.

This full-service incubator offered laboratories, office space, meeting rooms, and an in-house staffed CRO facility with millions of dollars worth of specialized equipment. By mid-2014, it reached full occupancy.  With about 45 resident companies and an extensive list of successful alumni companies in San Francisco, MBC BioLabs began to expand with the opening of its first incubator lab in San Carlos in 2018. 


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