Philadelphia champions life sciences 'co-working,' reviving former GSK campus in $500M makeover
In a boost to Philadelphia’s thriving life sciences scene, a former GlaxoSmithKline campus and a nearby site has been turned into what its developer calls “the largest coworking ecosystem” for healthcare companies in the country.
The Discovery Labs, a company spawned by MLP Ventures, has selected two locations in the King of Prussia area as the $500 million test case for its strategy of acquiring and converting old pharmaceutical R&D facilities worldwide. The sites add up to 1.64 million square feet.
CFO Audrey Greenberg estimates that around 70% of the site will be biopharma and related support.
By supplying startups with state-of-the-art equipment and placing them shoulder-to-shoulder with big players — GSK has signed up as its first tenant, with many more prospective occupants showing up for the daily tours — the project aims to drive further growth in a city that’s come to as the “Cellicon Valley.”
Entrepreneurs operating in the Discovery Labs will also have access to IQ Connect, an in-house incubator powered by the Pennsylvania Biotechnology Center.
The center’s portfolio currently consists of 32 companies in Bucks County, said COO Lou Kassa, who’s also heading up IQ Connect — and he expects the new incubator to accommodate double that number.
Greenberg adds that both the addition of lab space and the prospect of working in a suburban facility with amenities such as daycare centers and restaurants should burnish Philadelphia’s appeal to those working in the life science industry.
“There’s a lack of labs available right now, especially when it comes to well built, future-centric environments,” she explained, with a “pretty unheard of” vacancy rate of 2.6% — second only to Boston.
The Discovery Labs is also exploring projects in other legacy pharma facilities, which could provide 3 to 4 million square feet in additional space.