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UK's Babraham Institute to Build Bioincubator in 2010

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The commercial arm of the UK's Babraham Institute will raze its "200 series" of small incubator buildings on its campus in the coming year, replacing them with a single, new roughly £4 million ($6.5 million) bioincubator intended to house up to 16 early-stage biomedical startups.

Babraham Bioscience Technologies Ltd. says construction of its planned 8,800-square-foot Maia Phase I bioincubator is set to start in January, with the new bioincubator available to tenants in September.

BBT now houses within its current incubator space about 30 tenant startups occupying spaces of 500 to 1,000 square feet at the 450-acre Babraham Research Campus, some 6 miles south of Cambridge. Tenants include the bioinformatics services and software company Eagle Genomics; and Population Genetics Technologies, or PopGen, created to commercialize technology invented by Nobel laureate Sydney Brenner for obtaining sequence information from thousands of genomes simultaneously.

"The space is available to any company that is a biomedical enterprise, so we would expect to get additional genomics and proteomic companies attracted to the site," Derek Jones, CEO of Babraham Bioscience Technologies, told GenomeWeb Daily News on Thursday.

Babraham will use current staffers to run Maia Phase 1, "but may consider additional hires," he said.

Jones said the new space, as with current incubator space, will be open to startups whether spun out of the institute or from elsewhere. The institute's most recent spinout, Crescendo Biologics, said in October it had raised £4.5 million in seed funding from Paris-based Sofinnova Partners with Aitua, Avlar BioVentures, and the UK government-created £10 million Rainbow Seed Fund also participating.

"We are hoping to have an MRC spinout here too," he said, referring to the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge.

Maia Phase I will expand to about 70,000 square feet Babraham's total bioincubator space. That space, now 92 percent occupied, includes the 20,500-square-foot Minerva building, completed in 2006; the 20,000-square-foot Meditrina building which opened a year later; Building 405, which offers lab and office units as small as 324 square feet — and the "200" series, which Jones said will be demolished "in due course" to make way for Maia Phase I.

The newer buildings are all named for Roman goddesses: Maia was the goddess of growth and fertility; Minerva, wisdom; and Meditrina, medicine.

"We have space and planning consent for an additional building like Meditrina, Maia Phase 2, although at this stage we have no idea if and when Maia Phase 2 will be built," Jones said.

Selling points for Maia Phase 1, as with existing space, will include communal laboratory equipment and meeting areas; access to the institute's academic experts — and access to BBT's Technology Development Laboratory, a biology and chemistry laboratory designed for proof-of-concept stage users in molecular biology, protein biochemistry, cell biology, and medicinal and synthetic chemistry.

BBT welcomed its newest tenant on campus within the past month, and is in late stages of talks with a prospective tenant interested in moving to the campus at the end of January.

"We hope to have created a campus environment and culture rather than a research/science park environment," Jones said.