Bioscience incubator to be built in Illinois to support growing Midwest hub

By Maggie Lynch contact

- Last updated on GMT

(Image: Getty/MarieTDebs)
(Image: Getty/MarieTDebs)

Related tags: Research, Research and development, illinois, Biotech companies

Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science opens its incubator, Helix 51, creating wet lab and research space for the Illinois bioscience hub.

Helix 51 will be the first bioscience incubator in Lake County, IL and will serve the northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin region. The 5,400 square-foot institution will house therapeutic, diagnostics, and medical device startups from the area.

Helix 51, named after Photo 51 of the B form of DNA captured through X-ray diffraction by Rosalind Franklin in 1952, will accommodate life sciences startup activity. The incubator will expand into the space created by the Innovation and Research Park (IRP), a 100,000 square-foot building expected to be complete in the fall of 2019.

Ronald Kaplan, Rosalind Franklin University’s EVP for research said, “The need for affordable, state-of-the-art we lab space is critical for the expansion of Illinois’ bioscience industry.”​ According to the University, Lake County currently has 33,000 bioscience jobs and 122 companies in the industry and even more throughout the state.

Kaplan added that there is a shortage of this type of space as it is costly, often four to five times more expensive to build than a conventional office space.

Steven Kuemerle, special advisor of innovation and industry partnerships at Rosalind Franklin University told us, “True biomedical incubators with wet-lab space are in short supply in Chicagoland, especially in the innovation and healthcare industry-rich Lake County region.”

“Right now, we have start-up companies knocking on our door, eager for biomedical lab space in an incubator environment, in close proximity to high-quality academic research and scientific core facilities,”​ Kuemerle added.

The establishment of the incubator was supported by $2.5m in funding through tax credits under a federal program that provides investments to create jobs and job-training opportunities in low-income communities. These communities are present within Lake County, IL.

Kuermerle added that the University’s 100,000 square-foot Innovation and Research Park (IRP) is set to open this fall. According to Lake County Partners, the IRP will help generate around 500 direct and related jobs and annual economic development of $117m (€104.3m).

Housing R&D

Two organizations moving into the incubator include, BLRBio, a Rosalind Franklin University spinoff conducting research in Canada and Europe focused on treatments for cancer and fibrotic diseases, and Inspirotec, a medical technology company.

Bruce Riser, adjunct professor at Rosalind Franklin and founder and CEO of BLRBio, said, “We are thrilled to be a part of Helix 51, which is helping us develop and move urgently needed new therapies into the marketplace.”

BLRBio received more than $3.5m in grants from the National Institute of Health (NIH) and other industry foundations and is currently studying compounds in in vivo​ models for non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and non-alcoholic fatty liver diseases.

Inspirotec, a developer of allergen detection technology, will also work at Helix 51 as it expands its testing capabilities.

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