Q&A with Lab Incubator Leaders

September 9, 2013

Massachusetts has some of the most successful lab incubators in the world and MassBio works with their tenants to help provide programming and cost-savings on supplies. Massachusetts’ incubators are well-connected to the life sciences ecosystem and can connect entrepreneurs to the supportive network that the region provides.

Lab incubators are a great option for early-stage startups. We asked local lab incubator leaders to share their advice for choosing an incubator:

“Given the numerous decisions young companies must make, is there a typical decision time at which such companies seek entering a lab incubator? What guidance do you provide such early-stage companies regarding the lab incubator route at that critical time?”


William Brah, Founder and Executive Director, Venture Development Center, University of Massachusetts


When working in industry or a university, you begin to envision that a new company can be created, and make the personal commitment to create it, it is time to enter the incubator. You need a place where you can put your head down and crank on your business. This also helps you avoid a conflict of interest.

To make this transition smooth, the Venture Development Center offers first-class, move-in-ready private labs and offices and company building expertise. We’ve launched some of the best startups in Boston — Sample6, Valerion, Factor Bioscience, to name a few.

Jack Cohan, Manager, BioSquare Discovery and Innovation Center


The decision time is when the embryonic company realizes that the infrastructure provided by a lab incubator space would reduce its startup time and expenses and allow it to focus its limited resources on research.

Our guidance highlights the necessity to have a serious game plan for a solidly researched breakthrough technology including a financial plan to achieve its designated milestones; also, advice on how to access costly high-tech tools such as cyro-electronmicroscopy and macromolecular X-ray crystallography through the incubator and to use the lower tech amenities provided including catering, space for on-site conferences, and hazardous and biological waste disposal.

Kevin O’Sullivan, President & CEO, Massachusetts Biomedical Initiatives (MBI)


MBI has enjoyed a successful tenant company “graduation” rate of 75 percent based on two criteria: the incubator company has left our facility and, is operating independently — hopefully in Massachusetts. The guidance that we provide “seed” stage companies who seek lab space is that they must raise at least a year of operational funding, need to have a Business & Science Plan “roadmap” in place and, must sign a 6-12 month lease. Given our experience, these basic requirements have proven to be essential for long term life sciences company sustainability and commercialization

Martha C. Farmer, Ph.D. President & CEO, North Shore InnoVentures


Most of the companies that approach us about the incubator are very early stage — one or two people with a brilliant idea, some “friends and family” funds, maybe a provisional patent filed and/or an SBIR application. They come looking for lab space and don’t yet value all the subsidized support an incubator provides — mentoring, connections, services, shared equipment. Incubators help conserve capital and offer valuable flexibility. We advise entrepreneurs to study their market and clarify their value proposition if necessary. We provide guidance on preparing their pitch. They then present to our needs-assessment team as if we were investors — we are.

Raj Rajur, Chairman & CEO, CreaGen Biosciences, Inc.


Incubator facilities enable efficient deployment of people, time and cash. Young companies can use the space to develop their novel scientific concepts, build robust IP, and secure or maintain the confidence of investors. Start-ups at C2I enjoy ready access to valuable research equipment and tools, flexible lease terms, capital equipment, permits, waste disposal, utilities, office equipment and more. A stand-alone laboratory facility is not usually compatible with a tight budget, as each of these resources comes at significant cost in time and capital. Additionally, we provide guidance through experienced corporate consultants who have successfully navigated the path the burgeoning start-up is on.

Steven Riesinger, CEO and Co-Founder, MedChem Partners Inc.


I am a firm believer that a company has to own its core technology. I don’t just mean from an IP standpoint, I mean they have to understand it inside out and sideways. You need to have confidence in your process. It’s very hard to get that if you outsource everything from day one. Incubators allow you to offset the high price of setting up a lab and leverage your capital to get a solid proof of concept and a set of SOPs with your own scientists. Incubators allow you to maintain a core competency without having to maintain a lab.

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