Biotech goes to market this fall

A new regional biotechnology “greenhouse” will be ready, willing and able by the end of September to invest in life sciences research that shows commercial potential, said Jack Shannon, associate vice president in the Office of the Executive Vice President.

Shannon, who has worked for the past two years with President Judith Rodin to implement the Biotechnology Greenhouse Corp. of Southeastern Pennsylvania, said the $33.8 million in funding announced by the state earlier this month should arrive by June 30. In 90 days an executive director and chief executive officer will be in place, and an office will open. Look for requests for proposals as the next academic year gets underway.

The greenhouse’s goal is to encourage commerce, create jobs and bring new ideas to the marketplace by building on the biotechnology strengths of the academic and research institutions and corporations in Southeastern Pennsylvania.

“In the front, we had this tremendous pipeline of NIH and other basic research grants coming to the region, and in the back we have this tremendous technology industry, like GlaxoSmithKline and Cephalon,” Shannon said. “In between, though, is a gap.”

It is that gap that the greenhouse hopes to fill, funding research with commercial potential after grants run out and before GlaxoSmithKline or venture capitalists are willing to invest.

Other greenhouse goals include creating a structure that encourages collaboration amongst the players in biotechnology in Southeastern Pennsylvania.

The corporation will follow National Science Foundation peer-review procedures in allocating awards, said Shannon.

The greenhouse is one of three—the others are Pittsburgh for computer chip technology and Harrisburg for high-tech machine parts—being funded with $100 million from Pennsylvania’s share of tobacco settlement money.

“Without Rodin’s vision at the outset and willingness to partner with others along the way, the life sciences greenhouse would not have come to fruition,” he said.

Originally published on April 25, 2002