The Life Science Center started by the North Carolina Technological Development Authority (TDA) last December expects to fill its 20,000 square feet of laboratory and office space by the end of the year.

TDA president David Emmett tells Local Tech Wire the incubator is 50 percent full with two biotech start-up tenants, Ribonomics and Cyprotex. “But we think we’ll have it filled by year’s end,” he says.

Located off Patriot Drive in Durham, the Life Science Center is the only wet lab incubator in the Triangle. It provides space for eight to 10 laboratories and adjoining office space.

Emmett says the TDA, a non-profit technological development organization that spunout of the state department of commerce in 1991, also manages a separate $10 million investment fund.

But the TDA rents the offices for cash, not equity.

“We pay cash for equity and get cash for rent,” Emmett says. The start-ups pay about $1,000 a lab, each of which includes high bandwidth Net access, special lab flooring and walls, emergency sinks and showers, benches and cabinetry, and fume hood connections to take noxious gasses out of the lab.

Emmett says the TDA has half a dozen prospects for the remaining lab space, but the economy has affected its ability to “get leased up as quickly as we had hoped.” All the prospects, he says, “are still trying to determine their lab requirements, close funding, or both.”

The TDA may approach the GoldLEAF fund, which recently announced a major biotech initiative, as it looks for partners to develop more facilities, Emmett says. “It would make a lot of sense,” he says.

Incubators and seed capital are what most biotech start-ups need most, Emmett says, because they can’t sublease just any space. “They have to buy or refit,” he says, “and building or buying are generally not feasible. The timing is bad. They don’t have two years to manage a real estate project. They have to develop their science and hit milestones.”

Emmett says the company asks potential tenants to submit business plans.