New Biosciences Center Assists Life-Science Startups, Accelerates Commercialization

The 22,000-square-foot ATDC Biosciences Center is the first ATDC facility to offer wet labs. Equipped with fume hoods and sinks, this kind of laboratory space is important for bioscience companies that typically need special ventilation and purified water systems to advance their research.

Another hallmark of the new incubator is its location within the Ford Environmental Science & Technology (ES&T) Building, a new 287,000-square foot research center that houses a variety of life-science programs ranging from chemical engineering to biology. (ES&T is part of Georgia Tech's Life Sciences and Technology Complex, which also includes the Whitaker Biomedical Engineering Building and the Petit Biotechnology Building - all constructed in the last four years.)

"It's unusual to have an incubator integrated into a major research building. Most incubators on university campuses are freestanding, in separate facilities," says Wayne Hodges, director of ATDC and Georgia Tech's vice provost for Economic Development and Technology Ventures.

Yet by being convenient to researchers in the new Life Sciences Complex, the ATDC Biosciences Center enables entrepreneurs and university faculty -- individuals who are typically isolated from each other -- to collaborate more easily. The arrangement also fosters an interesting exchange of perspectives, Hodges adds: "It helps investors and entrepreneurs better understand the interests of faculty and vice versa."

ATDC first experimented with this sort of holistic approach in 1996 when it opened an incubator in the Georgia Centers for Advanced Telecommunication Technology (GCATT) building, home for some 20 research centers funded by government and industry.

Numerous success stories have emerged from ATDC at GCATT, including Digital Furnace, a company formed by Atlanta entrepreneur John Lappington and Georgia Tech professor John Limb that developed software to improve the efficiency of broadband networks. In less than two years after Digital Furnace's incorporation, Broadcom Corp. of Irvine, Calif., acquired the company in a stock trade valued at more than $136 million.

"Having multiple incubators on campus is more challenging in terms of managing the physical space and providing business services to the companies," says Susan Shows, vice president of the Georgia Research Alliance, which supported the GCATT facility and has provided more than $5 million to launch the new incubator. "Yet the benefits of this integrated model far outweigh any complications."

The ATDC Biosciences Center is an important "first step" in advancing Georgia's bioscience prowess, Shows adds: "Although bioscience is growing rapidly, it's still a relatively new industry in Georgia. We're trying to identify our core competencies and build industry around those strengths. By putting startups next to outstanding scientists and sophisticated equipment, we hope to generate more successful commercialization and tech transfer."

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