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As Delaware’s bioscience sector grows, space is in short supply

From Delaware Business Times

From the earliest scientific advancements made at DuPont more than two centuries ago to the brand-new cancer therapies being developed by Incyte, Delaware has a long history of laboratory-based research and development.

As the competition for those future-billion-dollar companies heats up, however, the First State is often at a disadvantage when it comes to retaining such startups. The state has fostered an environment of innovation, often connected through the University of Delaware, but it is now watching expanding companies seek out-of-state spaces to further their growth due to a lack of resources here.

According to a recent survey of 60 companies that utilize labs by the Delaware Prosperity Partnership (DPP), the state’s economic development agency, 12 anticipate needing more lab space within the next three years, totaling about 150,000 square feet. Only half of those companies said that they could accommodate that growth currently though, meaning tens of thousands of square feet of lab space need to be developed.

It’s not just about meeting the needs of Delaware’s current companies, however, but also attracting new prospects. DPP officials reported that over the past two and a half years, it has worked with 30 companies that were seeking lab space. It currently has 12 such companies in the pipeline, the majority of which need “graduated” lab space, or facilities containing more advanced features, measuring between 10,000 and 30,000 square feet. If able to be located, they could create upward of 400 well-paying jobs.

The challenge now is to continue to grow the innovative ecosystem for research in Delaware while also investing in new lab development to support their scaled growth. Neighboring competitors Maryland and Pennsylvania, which are home to hundreds of bioscience companies and have decades of financial backing and resources at their disposal, are ready and willing to poach those companies if progress isn’t made.

Bill Provine, president and CEO of the Delaware Innovation Space, a nonprofit incubator and accelerator that is home to 18 companies at the DuPont Experimental Station, agreed that more labs were needed in the state and that government aid may be needed to spur it.

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