UC Riverside’s Wet Lab Incubator has opened its doors to biotech entrepreneurs throughout the Inland Empire.
The incubator, a 3,000-square-foot space in the Multidisciplinary Research Building specially outfitted to house startups in the life sciences, agriculture, biotechnology, and medical technologies, is the first of its kind in the region. These innovators will no longer have to migrate to other parts of the state to find laboratory space and mentors to help commercialize their ideas.
“Things are going to change,” said Rodolfo Torres, vice chancellor for research and economic development, at a ribbon cutting ceremony Oct. 21. “We’re going to play a role in shaping how research and development is translated in our area. We’ll be inclusive of those that haven’t had opportunities in the past.”
Torres also said that the incubator is expected to create the kinds of high-skill and high-pay jobs that graduates usually seek in the coastal part of the state.
The new incubator can accommodate about 15 startup companies from UC Riverside and the Inland Empire. Twelve companies have already expressed interest. During the opening ceremony, Jay Goth, CEO and Founder of Murrieta Genomics, signed a lease agreement to become the first tenant.
In addition to a panoply of state-of-the art laboratory equipment, residents will have access to UC Riverside equipment across campus, such as a nanofabrication cleanroom, proteomics, stem cell core, and plant transformation through a service agreement. Residents will also have the opportunity to interact and collaborate with UCR researchers, faculty and students, attend seminars, access patent research services and entrepreneurial development workshops, and use UCR’s SBIR/STTR Resource Center, which guides applicants through the process of obtaining commercialization development grants from the federal government.
Mentoring and access to capital for incubator residents will be provided by UC Riverside Entrepreneurial Proof of Concept and Innovation Small Business Development Center, or EPIC SBDC, a UC Riverside-led program funded by the Small Business Administration and the state of California.
“This is the culmination of an effort started seven years ago when the Multidisciplinary Research Building was designed,” said Rosibel Ochoa, associate vice chancellor for technology partnerships. “It will be a vibrant entrepreneurial space in the middle of the UCR campus where innovators have a place to translate their ideas into companies to benefit the region.”
The wet lab incubator is the latest addition to a vigorous expansion of UC Riverside’s involvement in building an entrepreneurial ecosystem in the Inland Empire, and is a central asset in Riverside’s new Innovation District. The Office of Technology Partnerships has received more than $17 million in external funding, created the $10 million seed capital Highlander Venture Fund, EPIC, and helps manage the EXCITE technology accelerator in downtown Riverside. This fall, Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars will introduce entrepreneurship training for students. To date, these programs have supported over 2,260 innovation teams, including 376 UCR students and faculty members through the National Science Foundation’s I-Corps program.
“We have the whole package, access to capital, specialized mentorship, and a place to grow,” Ochoa said.
The incubator is funded by grants from the US Economic Development Administration, the state of California, and internal UC Riverside funds.