FORM, FUNCTION AND ART IMITATING LIFE
BY: JEN LEVISEN, EDITOR AT THE FORUM
VIDEO BY: WINDY MEDIA
Meet MetroWest Boston's Hottest Bio-Incubator
A home for rare cancer research, a cure for Alzheimer's, and blood replacement plasma for soldiers on the battlefield. ABI-LAB 2 is a bio-incubator with the capacity to house 45 life science startups with a ground-breaking business model, initiating growth and fostering promise for scientists and patients alike.
“We like to say you can move in today and start your science tomorrow, because it’s not just about space, it’s about helping people with problems and solving different experiments,” says Gary Kaufman, COO and co-founder.
As the top life science city in the nation, Boston has experienced astronomical increases in property and leasing costs as lab space within the city becomes scarce. Located in the MetroWest area 25 minutes outside of Boston, ABI-LAB 2 is a $16 million, 67,000 square foot facility in Natick. The four-story building contains build-to-suit dedicated laboratories ranging from 800 square feet to 2,000 square feet within Natick’s growing cohort of tech and life science companies.
Dacon Corporation was selected for the design and construction of ABI-LAB 2 due to the inherent time and cost savings approach of their design build method.
“ARCHITECTURE FOR RAPIDLY SCALING BUSINESSES NEEDS TO BE FLEXIBLE FOR LAB LAYOUTS, COMMUNAL SPACES, AND INDIVIDUAL WORK STATIONS."
"ABI-LAB 2 is designed to scale quickly — large utility plenums between floors and easy access to common vertical utility shafts can accommodate growing HVAC and equipment requirements. Often we discover savings through value-added engineering," says Jennifer Luoni, Operations Director for Dacon.
Founded by Kaufman, principal David Pratt, and scientist Dr. Raphael Nir, ABI-LAB 2 answers a hugely growing market need for a comprehensive approach to nurturing the life sciences. Five years ago, they hypothesized that beyond affordable space, startups would benefit from shared equipment, mentorship, financing and collaboration with outside scientists. Within 12 months their first investment property, ABI-LAB 1, was filled based off word-of-mouth marketing and $450.
More importantly, it produced winning companies, starting with
Karyopharm Therapeutics. Today this $1.5B company is creating
the first targeted cancer therapies to the inhibit nuclear export
of multiple myeloma. ABI-LAB 1 has been at waiting list
capacity for a year now.
In a sector where scientific information is a closely guarded secret, ABI-LAB 2 is all about community, enforced through collaborative spaces, events and lectures. Shared equipment in the common labs enables startups to begin research day one, unlike other facilities where tenants experience a three-month lag waiting for equipment to arrive. While most life science labs look anything but healthy, ABI-LAB 2 was designed for flexible space and light with 9-foot ceilings, bright colors and 6-foot punch windows that enable bench space efficiency for a well-conditioned environment. Each floor displays exhibitions of life science art made from natural or recycled materials, including abstract images of plants, marine life and human cells.
Newly opened in January, the facility is already at 50% capacity. The goal is one day to have many ABI-LABs producing life enhancing research and pharmaceuticals, says Kaufman.
“At the end of the day, it is not all just about ones and zeros,” he says. “It’s about making the world a better place. It’s about making a difference.”
Looking for more design build inspiration? Check out Dacon’s full Mortarr profile for additional projects and services.