New Carlsbad “Germinator” Opens for Startups as DIY Biology Blooms

7/9/13Follow @bvbigelow

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change the model for doing science. We’re trying to figure out the best way to enable creativity, but at the same time, you can’t have complete chaos.”

With 17 10-foot work benches, Jackson and Lustig say they have room for at least a dozen biotech startups, and perhaps as many as 15. The remaining space is for students, hobbyists, and tinkerers.

Rates for citizen scientists range from $100-$600 per month. Users paying the higher rates get a dedicated laboratory bench, equipment storage, and use of cell-culture storage space in a high-end freezer. Bio, Tech & Beyond also offers a basic rate of $10 per day.

The city of Carlsbad owns the building, which at one time was intended to be part of a new City Hall campus.

“We actually issued an RFP (request for proposals) in the summer of 2011 for an incubator that would be aligned with the business clusters in the area,” says Kathy Dodson, director of community and economic development for the city. There are more than 200 life sciences companies in the Carlsbad area, and city officials embraced Jackson’s proposal to combine citizen science with a community lab, science education center, and startup incubator.

Lustig and Jackson say they secured a five-year lease for the lab from the city for $1 per year. They have self-funded tenant improvements, doing some of the work themselves, and acquired surplus lab equipment for a fraction of its original cost.

“The equipment is not the failure point,” Lustig says. “It’s the consumables and maintaining the equipment where you can go broke paying for stuff.” They already have deals with Life Technologies for reagents and other lab supplies that are approaching their expiration date.

Can some DIY biology enthusiasts replicate what the home brew computer club did for personal computing?

If nothing else, the biotech germinator opening in Carlsbad represents an experiment in lowering the barriers to innovation. Lustig and Jackson say they’re encouraged that a new DIY biology group in San Diego already has 265 members.

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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  • Gaby Dow

    Great article Bruce, I’m at a StartupCircle meeting as I write this (Joe Jackson is the featured speaker) and your article came up as a discussion point!

    All of the entrepreneurs here are very excited about the democratization of biotech and the innovation it will unlock. It is also exciting that this is possible due to the City of Carlsbad’s vision and understanding that these startup hubs need to be fostered and supported with long-term vision.