Bayer adds US life sciences incubator in Cambridge

Bayer Co.Lab

Bayer has formally opened a new life sciences incubator in Cambridge, Massachusetts, that will focus on cell and gene therapies (CGT).

The latest in the German group’s Co.Lab network of incubators is its latest in the US, adding to its current locations in Berlin, Germany, and Kobe in Japan, with another in China planned to open in future. It already operates US incubators in 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. Johnson & Johnson runs a similar ‘no strings attached’ approach with its JLABS network, as do Pfizer, GSK and AstraZeneca, amongst other big pharma companies. 

Bayer’s Co.Lab Cambridge is based in Kendall Square – the heartland of the Boston/Cambridge biotech scene in the US, already housing hundreds of company facilities – including Bayer’s own Bayer Research and Innovation Centre (BRIC) – as well as Harvard and MIT affiliate research institutions and venture capital firms.

The company’s acting head of business development and open innovation, Friedemann Janus, said that the new incubator will create “an exceptional interdisciplinary community” that will benefit from “the direct vicinity of industry-leading CGT pioneers, global research, development, manufacturing, and investment know-how.”

The Co.Lab will offer modular lab space, mentoring on manufacturing and process technology and access to cell therapy manufacturing capabilities, and equipment maintenance and technical support.

That sort of support can be particularly helpful for start-ups in the CGT category, which would otherwise face hefty bills for setting up and maintaining equipment used to assess feasibility and provide material for initial development activities.