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Rising rent prices force some Philadelphia biotech start-ups out of their labs

By Jesse Schwartz
Published: June 6th, 2018

A growing portion of Philadelphia’s biotech start-up community is concerned that rising rent costs are threatening the city’s innovation ecosystem.

While the recent influx of successful biotech firms into the city shows a certain progress, it is also boosting rent prices at a number of Philadelphia lab spaces. According to some university officials, start-up founders and young researchers, this could force promising new companies to flee the city for cheaper spaces in the suburbs, or even out-of-state.

“I don’t want to see a situation where lack of affordable space negatively impacts the Philly ecosystem,” says Roy Rosin, chief innovation officer at Penn Medicine.

For example, the lab complex University City Science Center is closing 20,000 square feet of space that currently houses 19 start-ups. At the same time, the Massachusetts-based firm Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC) plans to open 22,000 square feet of new and updated lab space, which will be offered for a higher price than current rates.

Jeanne Mell, spokeswoman for University City, says that outsourcing lab managers “was a strategic decision.” By leaving labs to firms like CIC that can offer a “higher level of service,” University City can focus more on local efforts, such as connecting start-ups to its network of investors and mentors.

Brianna Wronko is the CEO of the startup Group K Diagnostics, based at the University Center in a lab that is facing a steep rent increase from $1,800 to $10,000 a month, she calculates.

“There’s no other place for Group K and the other labs to go within Philadelphia,” says Wronko. “A lot of people move, but we want to stay here. This is home.”

Source: The Inquirer

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