Alexandria Real Estate Equities announced the first phase of its plans yesterday for several new initiatives designed to foster science, technology and agricultural collaboration and innovation in RTP. This comes after the company acquired the property–now the Hamner Institute–more than three and a half years ago.
The amenity-rich Alexandria Center® for Science, Technology and Agriculture – RTP (or “Alexandria Campus”), will be a first-of-its-kind campus in the RTP area, located at 6 Davis Drive, said Joel Marcus, founder, chief executive officer and chairman of Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Inc. in an interview.
The first phase of the project includes upgrading the current building structures on the property, said Marcus.
“We will rehab part of it, and part of it will come down,” said Marcus. Future plans include a new laboratory building, and a laboratory facility that contains a massive greenhouse. Development of these features could begin within a year, said Marcus.
Ultimately, Alexandria is hoping that the Alexandria Campus will appeal to the next generation of the Triangle’s workforce, existing more as a city and civic center, rather than just a company campus tucked away in the woods, said Marcus.
According to the company, Alexandria Campus will consist of more than one million square feet of rentable lab and office space and be home to at least two new initiatives in RTP: the MedBlue Incubator, which was founded in 2013 to identify promising new science and technology from the Duke University Medical Center, and Alexandria LaunchLabs, designed to house emerging life-science companies in need of flexible office and laboratory space.
“Alexandria’s long-term commitment to and leadership in supporting key drivers of innovation like MedBlue is critical to the success of the region as an entrepreneurial hub,” said Barry Myers, M.D., Ph.D., professor and managing director, Duke Office of Licensing and Ventures in a statement. “We are delighted to be partnering with them in this way.”
LaunchLabs will also house Alexandria Venture Investments and Accelerator Corporation, a biotechnology investment and management company. The group already has plans to establish a venture investment and technology scouting presence within Alexandria LaunchLabs in RTP.
Alexandria Venture Investments and Accelerator Corporation has yet to make any investments in companies based in RTP, said Marcus, though he is hopeful that the group will make an immediate and dramatic impact.
“I think you’ll see ongoing investments,” said Marcus, “There will certainly be some life science investments.” Alexandria is currently planning to launch an agricultural technology investment fund, the details of which will be announced around the turn of the calendar year, said Marcus, “It will be a real company formation engine.”
“The Triangle has a long history of launching exceptional companies in these sectors, and our rich history of creating and growing premier clusters make this effort highly synergistic,” said Marcus. “We are excited to bring Alexandria LaunchLabs to RTP to fill an unmet need for access to more resources for emerging-stage companies.”
According to the company, Alexandria LaunchLabs will become home to successful startups, including the former Phoundry Pharmaceuticals, Inc., which was acquired by Intarcia Therapeutics, Inc. in September 2015. Founded in 2015, after six years of work as part of GlaxoSmithKline’s Enteroendocrine Discovery Performance Unit, Phoundry Pharmaceuticals created a portfolio of optimized peptides in various therapeutic categories, most notably diabetes and obesity, which attracted the acquisition by Intarcia.
The entire project, said Marcus, “will provide a collaborative ecosystem in which tenants will be able to further assist one another in identifying resources and sharing best practices.”
“With RTP’s excellent academic and medical institutions, venture capital support and entrepreneurial ideas,” said Marcus, “These initiatives are only the beginning of the opportunities to further facilitate and support life-changing innovation in this important cluster.”
“When you look at this effort, with the RTP Foundation’s project across the highway,” said Marcus, “It’s a real game-changer for the coming years.”
The company expects all three major research institutions in the Triangle to join in the research efforts that will happen at the facility. That’s how really big, dominant, regions have had success, said Marcus. The partnership with MedBlue is just one aspect. The company plans to continue its partnership with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and plans to partner with North Carolina State University on agricultural science research once the facility is operational, said Marcus.