Friday, May 25, 2012

Hankin makes old Johnson & Johnson space an incubator

by John George

"When Johnson & Johnson did not renew its lease for its freestanding building in Chester County, the property owner had a choice to make.

“We could have waited for another 40,000-square-foot lab user,” said Stacy A. Martin, director of commercial sales and leasing of the Hankin Group. Or offer it up in pieces.

Given the consolidation that has swept through the pharmaceutical industry, the first option did not seem like a practical approach.

“We were looking for a way to be flexible and creative with the space,” Martin said.

The Hankin Group decided to carve up the building into smaller offices and lab space to create The Innovation Center at Eagleview, an incubator for startups in the life sciences industry that can take advantage of the preserved lab space formerly used by Johnson & Johnson researchers.

Martin said as a member of the Chester County Economic Development Council she was aware of the county’s interest in creating space for entrepreneurs trying to launch companies, particularly in the biopharmaceutical sector.

Gary Smith, executive director of the Chester County Economic Development Council, said the creation of the Innovation Center at Eagleview supports the county’s philosophy of growing its own businesses rather than trying to attract some from outside the area.

“That happens,” Smith said, referring to established businesses moving into Chester County, “but starting companies is a primary objective of what we do.”

The incubator model, he said, provides entrepreneurs with a place to start their companies and interact with peers, while minimizing operating costs.

“With a lot of commercial leases [property owners] want a three- to five-year commitment,” Smith said. “The Innovation Center will be more flexible” with lease terms.

About 25,000 square feet in the building is being devoted to the Innovation Center, the planning for which began last fall.

The Hankin Group leased the other 15,000 square feet to Cray Valley, a trial maker of resins and additives that needed lab space for product development.

Martin said the Innovation Center has already secured its first tenant, TransSig. Founded by former Cephalon research scientist Douglas Pippin, who serves as the company’s CEO, TransSig is a biopharmaceutical company focused on the development of novel small molecule signal transduction modulators. The company got its start in the Pennsylvania Biotechnology Center of Bucks County.

The site is closer to Pippin’s Chester County home, he said, and provides him with greater ability to expand.

“There’s a lot more hood space,” Pippin said. “The laboratories are all fully equipped.”

Hankin’s plan is to have about 10 tenants, occupying 500 to 1,500 square feet of space under short-term leases.

The building is in the new Ideas x Innovation Network (i2n) created in March through a partnership by the Chester County and Delaware County Keystone Innovation Zones.

The i2n serves more than 55 companies in the two counties and was created to consolidate and strengthen the package of resources, services and networking opportunities available to emerging technology companies — primarily in the life sciences, information and energy sectors — in the Keystone Innovation Zones.
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