Sometimes all a company needs are the right connections and an ideal space to thrive.
A few years ago, Dr. Diana Z. Ye was looking to for a space to nurture her new company, PrimBio Research Institute, LLC. Ye graduated from Pennsylvania State University with a Bachelor’s of Science in 1996, received her Ph.D. in Pharmacology from Michigan State University in 2005, and did her postdoctoral training at University of Pennsylvania.
She had extensive research experience in a variety of areas, including cardiovascular, kidney, liver and gastrointestinal diseases and is an expert in diabetes and cancer research in addition to experience working in the pharmaceutical industry.
Ye founded PrimBio in 2011. The company is committed to providing innovative technologies and platforms for your genetic analysis needs. PrimBio’s mission is to advance genomic research by providing high quality results with fast turnaround times and competitive prices.
They have also developed clinical tests to assist physicians and other health care providers to improve diagnosis and treatment of cancer.With the company growing, Dr. Ye realized that PrimBio needed to expand to a larger facility. Around that time, she heard about the Innovation Center at Eagleview (ICE).
ICE is a collaboration of the Hankin Group, LLC – one of the region’s premier developers – and the Ideas x Innovation Network (i2n). A CCEDC initiative, i2n’s mission is to support emerging growth businesses throughout their entire life cycle by leveraging the assets of our academic institutions and our partners to create a network of physical and virtual resources.
Entrepreneurs are strategically connected with established professionals whose experience and knowledge become pivotal stops on an emerging company’s roadmap toward success.
Likewise, the Hankin Group is dedicated to giving back to the community by encouraging a dynamic population of entrepreneurs as well as helping Chester County and Pennsylvania attract and grow new businesses.
Together, these partners took a large space that was once occupied by Johnson & Johnson and created ICE which offers a creative solution for smaller entrepreneurs to start or grow a business.
A total of 5 to 15 companies share a common area and conference center, while lab and R&D spaces are self-contained behind secure doors. ICE provides fully furnished offices and labs equipped with benches, fume hoods, A/C, and compressed air systems.
This model allows startups to move in immediately without worrying about furnishings or capital raising, and can take six- to 18-month leases to test the market.
According to Stacy Martin, Commercial Leasing Director for the Hankin Group, “As an added bonus, it turns out that Chester County is second only to Boston in the number of biotech, pharmaceutical, life systems tech, diagnostics, and research and testing companies – boasting 90,000 employees. This is in no doubt due to the numerous academic and private research facilities in our area.”
In June 2013, PrimBio moved into ICE. Ye was drawn to the facility because “it offers large lab spaces ready to move into, shared conference rooms and equipment (ice maker, printers, etc.) as well as other amenities such as free parking spaces, making it a good place for startup companies like us.”
At the time of the move, PrimBio had hired its third employee, and started marketing their research services, and began to grow exponentially. According to Ye:
“at end of 2013 we had 6 clients and only a handful of projects and now we have over 60 clients from all over the world and have completed numerous projects. Our total sales growth has increased dramatically in 2014 and in 2015. By the end of the 2016 fiscal year our projected sales growth will be 42 times greater than what we had in 2013. We have also hired 4 more employees and plan to hire more this year.
“In addition to our research services we have also validated 2 CLIA accredited tests, the PrimBio Cancer Hotspot Panel and the Salimark OSCC qPCR assay. We are hopeful that our research services combined with our clinical tests will drive sales growth in the future.”
In addition to landing in the right space to grow and having access to an educated and trained talent pool, Ye also took advantage of opportunities and connections available through i2n.
One such connection was between Ye and Jonathan Beschen of SparkNET Technologies in February 2014. Since shortly after that initial meeting, PrimBio engaged SparkNET for their telecommunications needs. “SparkNET has been very helpful in doing all kinds of IT support work for us,” said Ye.
Since ICE is located in a Keystone Innovation Zone, Ye noted that “PrimBio also benefits a lot from the KIZ tax credits which have really helped increase our cash inflow and helped us grow faster.”
What Opportunities Are Available for Companies Like PrimBio?
ICE, located at 665 Stockton Drive in Eagleview, is just one innovative space available for startups and entrepreneurs in Chester County and the surrounding region.
Additional sites or virtual incubators include: Evolve IP Innovation Center, HeadRoom, BiZtract and Walnut St. Labs, Uncommon Individual Foundation, Artisan Exchange, AmpTech, and Franklin Commons.
A network of resources and connections is available from i2n on topics ranging from accounting to human resources and marketing to strategic planning.
Companies may also be eligible for an incentive program that provides tax credits to for-profit companies less than eight years old operating within specific targeted industries within the boundaries of a Keystone Innovation Zone (KIZ).
To learn more about the resources to help start or grow your business, visit www.i2npa.org.
Gary Smith, President and CEO of the Chester County Economic Development Council provides an overview of the Innovatition Center at Eagleview during an open house in April.