Mass Innovation Labs planning another shared lab space for Cambridge

A screenshot from the Mass Innovation Labs website shows a building at 675 Kendall Street in Cambridge.
A screenshot from the Mass Innovation Labs website shows a building at 675 Kendall Street in Cambridge.

Cambridge may soon get a second shared laboratory space for life sciences companies in the shadow of the Genzyme building in Kendall Square. And one of the people behind the Mass Innovation Labs project says that it will be different from — and possibly larger than — LabCentral, which opened late last year with financial backing from the state’s Massachusetts Life Sciences Center and corporate sponsors like Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer.

The three key players behind the new space are Amrit Chaudhuri of Advanced Peptides, PC Zhu of NeoBioLab, and Seth Taylor, the organizer of the Biotech Tuesday networking gathering. Taylor will manage the new space, which could be open by this fall, according to Chaudhuri.

Chaudhuri didn’t want to say much yet about the new space, but unlike LabCentral, which is geared to early-stage startups, he said Mass Innovation Labs would also welcome “established companies that may just want to have a Kendall Square presence, like a research team from Germany that might need to send five people here to work with Boston University,” for example. And local biotech companies might rent space temporarily at Mass Innovation Labs to get access to equipment or facilities for a short period of time. Chaudhuri says he is trying to create “a really unique ecosystem in the space, with small companies, academics, larger companies, and contract research organizations.” The founders are also exploring the possibility of having animal facilities on site so that tenants can conduct pre-clinical research studies.

No lease has been signed, but the team is focusing on a former Vertex Pharmaceuticals office at 675 Kendall Street. The new space could be as large as 70,000 square feet, according to some sources in the real estate industry, making it more than twice the size of LabCentral. The MIL website says it could house as many as 100 companies. Chaudhuri said the three partners involved in getting Mass Innovation Labs off the ground are also starting a small venture fund, Schrodinger Ventures, that may invest in some of the tenants at Mass Innovation Labs in return for subsidizing the cost of their lab space.

Funding for MIL will come from “a combination of sources,” says Chaudhuri, who didn’t want to be more specific. One interesting possibility: Vertex’s lease on the space at 675 Kendall runs through 2018, and it’s possible the big pharma company, which has moved to the Innovation District, could help subsidize MIL’s sublet. I’ve reached out to Vertex to see if that might be the case.

LabCentral founder Johannes Fruehauf says that his shared lab will be at capacity by this fall, and that a planned expansion that will more than double the size of the 28,000-square foot facility is about two years off. “There’s definitely a need for more entry-level space in Kendall,” Fruehauf says, though he cautions that building out high-end lab facilities is an expensive proposition.

Scott Kirsner writes the Innovation Economy column every Sunday in the Boston Globe, in which he tracks entrepreneurship, investment, and big company activities around New England.
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