Interview with Matt Owens from Harlem Biospace

March 3, 2015 | Posted by Tess Mayall in Scientist Profile |

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I recently talked to Matt Owens, Executive Director of Harlem Biospace. For anyone interested in biotech, startups, or the up and coming New York biotech scene, his interview below is a must-read. Check it out!

Q: Why was Harlem Biospace created?

Matt: There was so much incredible research taking place at the institutions in New York City, but there was no support system for developing that research into a company. One important first step to building those companies and commercializing that research is affordable lab space. So we built an affordable lab and working space for early-stage life science companies.

Q: What is the goal of Harlem Biospace?

Matt: The goal is to lower the barrier for commercializing a hypothesis into a technology.

Q: What kind of companies are you looking for? What’s the ideal stage and mission of the companies that apply?

Matt: The stages are very early, 1-4 people. That still covers a wide spectrum of readiness to ship a product, because the ideas are very different. It ranges from molecules for drug discovery to people with research tools that are ready to prototype and find early customers.

Most are just funding these projects themselves or have family investors, while a few have investors.

Q: What are the companies in your first batch working on?

Matt: It’s an incredibly diverse group ranging from allergy testing techniques to drug discovery to devices for preserving mouse neurons. The individuals behind them all have strong research backgrounds and a well-articulated plan for developing a company around their idea.

Q: What facilities and instrumentation do you offer?

Matt: It’s lab space that’s top of the line. It includes everything such as centrifuges and fume hoods, but it also has dedicated desk space. We’ve found that as people start bringing in their equipment, they make them available for shared use, which is a great value to the community.

Q: What’s the biotech scene in New York like?

Matt: It’s definitely growing. There’s a lot of momentum around the research. To give context, New York City is second in NIH funding, so there’s a large amount of incredible research coming through. Plus there’s a group of programs designed to kickstart the ecosystem, and I think people are going to see a lot of positive things from that in the coming years.

Q: Tell me about the HYPOTHEkids program, how did it come about?

Matt: A few of us had a strong interest and we wanted to give back to the surrounding community immediately, rather than wait until these companies were successful years down the road. We thought, “What’s the best way to do that?” And we decided that going into after school programs with science was the simplest and quickest way of doing that. So that revved up quickly and we now have two summer programs that are underway right now.

You can check out more on Harlem Biospace at http://harlembiospace.com/.

 

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