Bayer adds a new life science incubator in China

Bayer CoLab

Bayer’s network of Co.Lab life sciences incubators has expanded once again with the announcement of a new site in Shanghai, China, that will focus on oncology cell and gene therapies (CGT).

The group also announced the inauguration of a previously-announced Co.Lab incubator in Kobe, Japan, working on CGT, as well as other therapeutic areas, and said its site in Berlin, Germany, should officially open in 2024.

China is already the second-largest pharma market in the world behind the US and, according to some estimates, could become the largest market within the next decade, making it an important growth area for pharma groups. Its fast-growing biotech sector means it is also increasingly becoming a source of new therapeutic candidates.

International pharma companies often partner with Chinese companies on projects within China, and Bayer has taken that option, collaborating with Shanghai Pharmaceuticals on the creation of Co.Lab Shanghai.

The company has been growing its network of incubators at a steady pace, with the new announcements coming just a few months after it opened a Co.Lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts, its third in the US after San Francisco and Sacramento.

The aim of incubators is to provide a location for new start-ups without the capital cost of setting up their own lab and office space, with the pharma companies that run them typically providing mentoring and other support that can scale up if their projects gather momentum.

For the pharma companies, it provides an opportunity to get close to new companies and their technologies in the earliest stages, providing an opportunity for partnering later on.

In just a few months, the Cambridge site – which also focuses on CGT – has already welcomed a series of start-ups, including Portal Bio, AI Proteins, Typewriter Therapeutics, Flux Therapeutics, and AIRNA, which are working on CGT delivery and related therapeutic technologies.

“Expanding the Bayer Co.Lab incubator network is a key element of our company’s innovation strategy – finding solutions for pressing healthcare challenges and unmet medical needs through collaborative approaches,” remarked Juergen Eckhardt, head of pharma business development, licensing, and open innovation at Bayer.

“Through the Bayer Co.Lab programme we can identify early-stage innovations and serve as a catalyst driving the best ideas toward realisation,” he added.

Johnson & Johnson runs a similar ‘no strings attached’ approach with its JLABS network, as do Pfizer, GSK, and AstraZeneca, amongst other big pharma companies.