In 2014, Amgen became a sponsor of LabCentral, an independent, shared laboratory space designed as a launchpad for high-potential life sciences and biotech startups. With this sponsorship, Amgen can nominate up to two promising life-sciences and biotech startup companies per year to take up residence in this 28,000-square-foot facility set in Kendall Square, the heart of Cambridge, Massachusetts’ biotech hub. An exciting new model for nurturing early-stage companies, LabCentral provides biotech entrepreneurs a fertile environment. The organization provides infrastructure, equipment, services, and programs to enable their unfettered practice of science on day-one of move-in. They also foster an environment of collaboration and creative exchange among residents, partners, and sponsors. This unique arrangement provides scientists with opportunities to get support (and potentially guidance) on research at the earliest of stages, while giving Amgen a window into some exciting possibilities.
“As Amgen looks forward, we are building new kinds of bridges to enterprising science and scientists on the outside, complementing early work that’s happening internally,” said Janis Naeve, managing director of Amgen Ventures, who partnered with Amgen scientists to bring this sponsorship together. “In the Cambridge, Massachusetts area, there is such a rich vein of early science and there are some brilliant ideas out there. Sponsoring LabCentral is an excellent opportunity to tap into a very promising subset of the vast amount of groundbreaking scientific discovery that is happening in the world right now.”
When Philip Tagari, one of Amgen’s R&D vice presidents, visited LabCentral, the unique environment sparked memories of his own experiences as a young scientist, and inspired thoughts of future possibilities. “Years ago it would have been hard to imagine a laboratory concept that enables and encourages entrepreneurial scientists lacking resources to research and develop groundbreaking science and technologies,” said Tagari. “When I met some of the LabCentral incumbents, I realized Amgen had to be a part of this opportunity to support and even mentor these visionary investigators. I was also excited by the prospective insights we could gain by fostering these relationships.”
LabCentral’s “Office Hours” are another key aspect of our sponsorship. Amgen staff can take a short stroll from our Cambridge office to the LabCentral incubator and visit with the resident scientists. “You often hear about the importance of work and play in creating an inspirational work environment,” said Naeve. “For our scientists, the chance to visit at LabCentral is fun time and one more way to spark creativity and new ideas. This partnership, with its give and take qualities, plays an important role along the continuum of different partnerships we’re building to grow our capabilities.”
Access to infrastructure, boost to discovery
Access to lab infrastructure can be a major barrier to early research. LabCentral provides key services that a scientist needs—from fume hoods to printers and a range of technologies—with a goal that startups might develop their science more rapidly than if they had to develop the lab and office infrastructure themselves. The resident startups, some in what might be called the pre-venture capital stage, can be as small as a one-person lab and represent some of the youngest examples of early-stage research outside of an academic laboratory.
“Amgen, with its deep expertise as a developer of biotech-based drugs, is an ideal partner for many of LabCentral’s resident companies working on promising new biopharmaceuticals,” said LabCentral President Johannes Fruehauf, Ph.D., M.D. “We’re thrilled that Amgen has joined as our newest sponsor and look forward to working with the Amgen team to support these early-stage entrepreneurs and to help accelerate development of new therapies to improve human health.”