Editor’s Note: The WRAL TechWire “Future of Work” series, supported by commercial real estate firm JLL and other partners, continues. 

Earlier this month, series took an in-depth look at the demand for land, which can now be described as “insatiable,” while developers look to shore up their land positions.  That’s especially the case in the industrial sector, the topic of the special report and in-depth Q&A, and, increasingly, the life science and biopharmaceutical sector, which the series investigates this week. 

Join a WRAL TechWire LinkedIn Live discussion on Tuesday, May 17 at 11 a.m. that includes John MacDonell as a panelist. 


RALEIGH – One of the most important considerations for any life science company, at any stage, is proximity to talent.

John MacDonell, an executive vice president at JLL, told WRAL TechWire earlier this year that one of the reasons that the sector is so strong in the Triangle region is due to the concentration of excellent educational institutions and existing professionals employed throughout the region.

And while large companies may seek larger campuses, perhaps based in Research Triangle Park, smaller firms may choose to co-locate or to be concentrated on a campus that provides access to a wide variety of amenities.

MacDonell is watching one such concept closely: BioLabs.

‘No parallel’ for Future of Work in Triangle’s life science sector, economy

A case study

The facility provides laboratory space for startups in the life sciences, and allows startups access to the research and laboratory resources needed to progress.

“It’s like coworking, but coworking on steroids, because they’re providing bench space, all kinds of tools that they’ll need, instruments, refrigeration, and all of the stuff that life science companies can and need to use,” said MacDonell.

There’s a huge gain in resource efficiency, which better positions the startups to absorb delays in timeline, research, or funding.  The space quickly reached capacity, even as some startups outgrew the space, and graduated to other facilities.

Now, MacDonell and JLL are assisting in an expansion effort.

BioLabs, built into the historic Chesterfield Building in the Brightleaf section of Durham, between Duke University’s east campus and downtown, is already at capacity.  And those startups remind MacDonell of another sector, that a decade ago, began to expand exponentially in downtown Durham.

“They have a lot in common with technology companies, they’re startups, they’re seeking talent, they’re after culture and vibe,” said MacDonell.  “These startups don’t want to leave Downtown Durham.”

The BioLabs expansion will be delivered later in the year, and will open in 2023, MacDonell told WRAL TechWire.  “That whole area is becoming like a beehive.”

What’s next in Future of Work series: The ‘unquestionable strength’ of the Triangle

Executive Profile: John MacDonell

John MacDonell specializes in agency leasing in the Triangle, where he is responsible for overseeing and executing all phases of property leasing as well as business development.

With more than 13 years of experience working within the real estate industry and prior experience as an asset manager affords him a rare perspective and allows him to view the asset from the owner’s perspective.

John has also directly supervised and directed the acquisitions and dispositions for newly formed real estate funds.

While at Hampden-Sydney College, John was a four year member and team captain of the nationally-ranked Varsity Lacrosse team.  He later earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Managerial Economics from Hampden-Sydney and a Master’s degree in Real Estate Development from Johns Hopkins University.

John is married to his wife, Jaime, and they have two sons, Hayes and Connor.  John enjoys spending time with his family, cooking, exercising and traveling.

This editorial package was produced with funding support from JLL and other partners.  WRAL TechWire retains full editorial control of all content.

The series launched here, and the second report discussed high demand.  Next, the series explored the relationship between work spaces, work places, and the current labor market.  The following weeks, we’ve investigated specific sectors of the real estate market, and next week’s focus is on the life science sector.


More from the series

Future of Work: Triangle ‘well-positioned’ for more growth of industrial sector

Exclusive Q&A: Resiliency, e-commerce keeping demand for industrial space high

Future of Work special report: Across the Triangle, an ‘insatiable demand’ for land

Future of Work report: Developers ‘aggressively trying to shore up land positions’ in Triangle

Perspectives on land development: A ‘Future of Work’ Q&A