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October 31, 2013

QB3 Thinks Small with Newest San Francisco Incubator

  • The California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences (QB3), which consists of the University of California’s San Francisco (UCSF), Berkeley, and Santa Cruz campuses, opened its fifth incubator in the Bay Area region, focusing on the smallest of biopharma startups.

    Sixteen of an envisioned 30 to 35 startups have already begun moving into the new incubator at 953 Indiana Street, known as [email protected] and located in San Francisco’s Dogpatch neighborhoood.

    They are expected to be joined by another eight startups by mid-November.

    QB3 says the new incubator offers more than $500,000 in equipment for use by startups on the tightest of budgets, such as small grants or the borrowing limit of a credit card. Startups can occupy as little as an eight-foot lab bench or half a shelf in a low-temperature freezer.

    "Startups are one of the best ways of turning breakthrough science into great products, but in the life sciences the high price of equipment and space means many great ideas never get a chance,” QB3 associate director Douglas Crawford, Ph.D., said in a statement. "We want to change that. We want to help entrepreneurial scientists change the world. [email protected] is custom-built for this purpose."

    Yet [email protected] enjoys a big pharma anchor: Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Labs, which occupies a 5,000-square-foot portion of the roughly 24,000-square-foot incubator, with an option to expand, through a collaboration between Johnson & Johnson Innovation and QB3.

    Janssen Labs envisions housing several startup partners—one of them Amarantus Bioscience Holdings, which focuses on discovery and development of diagnostics and therapeutics related to neurodegeneration and apoptosis. Amarantus said it officially moved into [email protected] on Monday: “We will get direct access to key services and mentoring that will allow management to position the company to significantly increase shareholder value as we move forward,” Amarantus president & CEO Gerald E. Commissiong said.

    Another corporate giant, GE, has donated major research equipment designed to enable startups to culture cells, purify proteins and DNA, and analyze samples. And JPMorgan Chase awarded $200,000 to fund an entrepreneurship program manager position at [email protected], as well as internships based there for students from economically disadvantaged neighborhoods seeking to enter the biotech industry.

    Each [email protected] tenant can access Mission Bay Capital, QB3's $11.3 million seed-stage venture fund to support UC startups; legal and business advisors; assistance in grant writing for small business funds; and access to higher-end equipment in facilities at UCSF’s Mission Bay campus.

    [email protected] is a public-private partnership that includes QB3, Dewey Land, and undisclosed private investors.