Biotech: Finding The DNA For Growth

By the BF Staff
From the March/April 2019 Issue

Life-changing biotech breakthroughs are poised to move out of the labs and into the marketplace, as the emerging science of genomics uses DNA to customize medicine.

If you want to know the state of play in the biotech sector, take a look at the soaring atrium of the new Paul Probst Center for Precision Medicine at the HudsonAlpha Institute in Huntsville, AL. The architecture of the entrance to this facility, which is filled with state-of-the-art labs built to National Institutes of Health standards, is emblematic of an industry whose breakthroughs are poised to burst out of the labs and change our lives.

If you want a good benchmark for the potential of emerging biotech markets, genomics is a perfect example (the precision medicine at HudsonAlpha utilizes genomic science—reading an individual DNA—to identify the appropriate treatment for that individual’s medical needs).

Industry analysts project that the global genomics market will grow at an average annual rate of 13.5 percent from 2019 to 2024, nearly doubling from its current level of $18.9 billion to $35.7 billion by 2024. Factors influencing this spectacular growth rate include increased government funding, decreasing gene-sequencing costs and the proliferation of genomics startups. The bottom line: biotech is ready for the big time.


“Open for Innovation” is the phrase MRA Group coined for its newest development, Spring House Innovation Park, a 14-building office, laboratory, research and development complex situated on 133 pristine acres in Lower Gwynedd Township, Montgomery County, PA. MRA purchased the property in March 2017 from Dow Chemical Co., who procured the campus through its acquisition of Rohm and Haas. MRA acquired the tired property with the vision of repurposing and repositioning the campus into the premier regional hub for innovation. “From the moment we stepped foot on the property, we envisioned reutilizing the existing structures to create a destination location for innovators, thought leaders and researchers who could collaborate in a unique campus setting,” said Mike Wojewodka, Senior Vice President and Partner of MRA Group. “The laboratory infrastructure is robust, with existing labs designed to give science and tech innovators high quality space engineered to deliver form, function and fluidity, and provide everything that a scientific team demands today, coupled with the flexibility to expand as teams grow and technology evolves.”

One of the best attributes of Spring House Innovation Park is its location. Unparalleled in visibility, working environment, accessibility and quality of life, the property sits adjacent to the four way on/off ramp of limited access Rt. 309, a major regional artery that connects the core of Bucks and Montgomery Counties to the City of Philadelphia. Just minutes from the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the campus is part of what is newly-defined as the Metropolitan Division of the larger Philadelphia metro area that includes Montgomery County, Bucks County and Chester County. The region has a burgeoning biotech sector that is now one of the largest in the U.S.

Lawrence J. Stuardi, president of MRA believes that the axiom “Open for Innovation” is not only illustrative of Spring House Innovation Park but also describes the larger Philadelphia metro area, given the amount of innovation occurring throughout the region. According to a recent publication by CBRE, the Philadelphia metro area is one of the top ten life science markets in the nation. The region is home to the first FDA-approved CAR-T cell therapy and the first FDA-approved gene therapy, leading some to refer to the region as “Cellicon Valley.”

In an effort to ensure that the region remains competitive through a properly trained workforce, Thomas Jefferson University is constructing the Jefferson Institute for Bioprocessing (JIB) training and education facility at Spring House Innovation Park. Developed in partnership with the National Institute for

Bioprocessing Research and Training (NIBRT), JIB will be the only facility in the U.S. combining GE FlexFactory Single-Use reactors and the NIBRT curriculum, which originated in Dublin, Ireland. “There are a handful of institutions in the world addressing this emerging field, and Jefferson (Philadelphia University + Thomas Jefferson University) is poised to lead students and industry professionals through the world of biologics,” said Dr. Ronald G. Kander, Associate Provost for Applied Research and Dean of Jefferson University’s Kanbar College.

With a physical design that sparks collaboration and idea sharing, combined with a dynamic campus that elevates the work/life experience, the 600,000 square feet of innovative workspace at Spring House Innovation Park provides a unique environment, not only for the multi-disciplined industries that locate to the campus, but also as a multi-generational destination for the surrounding community. JeanMarie Markham, CEO of Clinlogix, an international clinical research firm, was an early supporter of MRA’s vision and decided to relocate her company to Spring House Innovation Park. Having offices strategically located around the globe, Clinlogix selected Spring House Innovation Park as its World Headquarters on account of its accessible location and MRA’s development vision to create a regional hub of innovation excellence. “Locating our business to Spring House Innovation Park has enabled us to attract new talent while further facilitating our Innovation Pathway for the Life Sciences,” she said.

In addition to first class office space and laboratory facilities, MRA has crafted a campus environment that will include a 100-room branded hotel, conference facilities with shared office space, on-site child daycare, a wellness/ fitness center, and a brewery /restaurant. Additionally, MRA envisions developing a small amenities-based retail village and a planned residential community.

All told, MRA will have invested more than $100 million into the development of Spring House Innovation Park and expects that the overall return on the investment to the region and economy will be more than five-times that.

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