Wanted- More Wet Lab Space for Minnesota's Life Science Entrepreneurs

Last week, Life Science Nexus was privileged to tour the Worthington Biotechnology Advancement Center (BAC) and developing wet lab space with Worthington Regional Economic Development Corporation (WREDC) Executive Director Abraham Algadi. 

Click here to access our previous story about the BAC wet lab incubator. 

The BAC and associated incubator have a great opportunity to begin to fill a gaping hole in our life science startup space in Minnesota.  It’s no secret.  We in Minnesota have precious little wet lab space for our life science entrepreneurs.   

But what is the real utility of a wet lab space?  How can it spur innovation and entrepreneurship?  What can the Worthington BAC incubator bring to the table?

The Worthington Bio Science Conference wrapped up last week with a panel discussion surrounding the BAC lab build-out, what needs to happen to complete the space, and what value the lab would add to the community.

This expert panel was led by non-longer “homeless” life science entrepreneur Goutham Vemuri, Agricultural Utilization Research Institute (AURI) Project Development Director Harold Stanislawski, and AURI Senior Director of Science and Technology Rod Larkins.

Lack of access to a wet lab space is a major barrier to success for life science entrepreneurs.  Unlike some other science disciplines such as robotics, life science companies require critical infrastructure and equipment like centrifuges, fume hoods, and sub-zero freezers to generate intellectual property.  A life science startup is not really something that can be launched out of a basement.

Minnesota has very limited wet lab space for non-institute associated scientists, especially outside of the Twin Cities area.  AURI is stepping up to fill these gaps at their Crookston and Marshall facilities in western Minnesota.  Vemuri himself found a great home to make progress on his proof of concept at the AURI Marshall facilities. 

The 2000 square foot wet lab area being build in Worthington will provide space and infrastructure for the “homeless researcher” in southwestern Minnesota, helping to build up the entrepreneurial community in the city.  The lab space has great potential beyond this application.  The area could also be used by the larger companies in Worthington, like the animal vaccine developer Newport Laboratories, for processes such as product validation.  Training and other STEM outreach initiatives could also take place using the lab equipment.

The WREDC and city of Worthington continue to bring the BAC wet lab closer to a concrete reality.  The community is motivated and pointed in the right direction.  We at Life Science Nexus and across the state look forward to watching this story unfold.