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Community ‘Incubator’ Science Lab Coming to Carlsbad

The City Council approved a proposal on Tuesday, Jan. 29, to lease the former Farmers Insurance auto claims building at 2351 Faraday Avenue to Bio, Tech and Beyond, which will manage a start-up incubator and science education center. 

The city will lease the 6,000-square-foot building for $1 a year for five years. The city will repair the building’s aging heating and ventilation system and cover the costs of gas and electricity for one year. It will also continue to pay for trash removal and landscaping for the five-year term of the lease. The incubator’s managers will pay for all tenant improvements and furnish the lab with experimental equipment and instruments valued at $250,000. They will donate their time to run the lab and counsel start-up companies for two years, after which they expect to hire staff.  The total valuation of labor and expenses over the five years is estimated at $877,000. 

The goals of the incubator project are to:

  • Create new life sciences companies and new jobs in Carlsbad
  • Become a national leader in the citizen science movement, strengthening the city’s life sciences cluster
  • Add to Carlsbad’s core technology base, resulting in new products and new patents
  • Serve as a base for regional science education outreach efforts

“Having an incubator and community lab in Carlsbad improves the entrepreneurial environment for life sciences,” said Kathy Dodson, economic development manager for the City of Carlsbad.

Carlsbad is home to a number of life sciences companies, including Life Technologies, Isis Pharmaceuticals and Genoptix.  

The proposal has strong support of life sciences organizations, including the Salk Institution’s educational outreach arm, Oxbridge Biotechnology Roundtable, the San Diego Biotechnology Network and Assay Depot, a San Diego life sciences company that has pledged a $10,000 citizen science competition at the facility. 

    The effort is being led by Joseph Jackson, founder of BioCurious, one of the country’s first community laboratories, and Kevin Lustig, Ph.D., founder and CEO of Assay Depot, a San Diego-based company whose cloud-based software products enable scientists to easily access research services and experts. Many citizen scientists have worked for months as part of an all-volunteer team behind the community lab. Lustig said the diminishing cost of equipment and technology has made a community laboratory possible, and noted that people who have ideas but need access to equipment and technology will be able to rent space in the community lab where they can run experiments and test out those ideas.

    “The incubator is about enabling citizen scientists to translate their ideas into experiments, and then to translate their experimental results into companies,” Lustig said. He said Bio, Tech and Beyond particularly will focus on serving as a resource hub for anyone interested in researching rare or orphan diseases. “Because each rare disease strikes such a small number of people, there’s little profit incentive for pharmaceutical companies to do research,” Lustig said. “In a community lab like ours, patient advocacy groups, family members and citizen scientists can actually work with the patients themselves on research that may one day lead to a cure.” 

    Jackson said Carlsbad’s position as a home to life sciences companies makes it a logical choice for a community lab. “This will be a first in Southern California,” said Jackson, who organized the BioCurious community lab in Sunnyvale. “It will offer community access to lab facilities and bring world-class members of the life sciences community into contact with members of the public.” 

    The lab will be Biosafety Level One, meaning that it won’t handle disease-causing organisms.

    The incubator plans on becoming self-sufficient by raising money through membership fees, corporate sponsorships, science challenges, crowd funding, event and course fees, and grants.

    The incubator team has a goal of launching at least eight start-up companies in the first two years, enrolling 50 paying members, and offering at least four sciences courses per year.

    –City of Carlsbad

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