GateWay Community College plans $6 million bioscience incubator

July 21, 2009

By hammersmith

For the entrepreneur who dreams of building Arizona’s next successful bioscience firm, one of the most vexing challenges is often finding space to lease. GateWay Community College in Phoenix is putting $6 million toward solving the problem.

Unlike storied software companies literally launched from their founders’ garages, bio startups usually require expensive specialized equipment and physical infrastructure. Arizona’s Bioscience Roadmap has noted that in Arizona, affordable facilities of this sort are in short supply. More often, the cost of leasing space can break the bank.

That will change–at least somewhat–thanks to GateWay. At an event on July 14, GateWay officials announced that they will be building a bioscience business incubator on GateWay’s campus at 40th and Washington streets. The incubator will offer wet-lab and research space to bioscience startups at below-market rates. And GateWay students professionally interested in the biosciences will get to see up close the first steps on the long road from the cocktail-napkin idea to initial public offering.

“This project reflects the essence of our state,” said Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, speaking at the announcement. “We are a state formed by entrepreneurship. And not many communities can boast this kind of partnership, building in a time of great economic challenge.”

To fund the incubator, GateWay secured a $3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce and $800,000 from the City of Phoenix. The college is contributing $2 million of its own voter-approved bond money to the project.

Though it may be difficult to assemble funds for a project like GateWay’s, economic analysis has suggested that public investment in business incubator and accelerator programs pay substantial long-term dividends.

For instance, a 2008 U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration (EDA) report found that, among all EDA construction grants, “Funds spent on business incubators appear to have the largest correlation with future economic growth.” Each $10,000 of EDA investment, the study found, spurs creation of between 46 and 69 jobs.

“A bioscience incubator complements GateWay’s goals very well,” said Eugene Giovannini, GateWay’s president. “We consider ourselves an economic-development catalyst. And cutting-edge learning opportunities will be available to students, working side-by-side with entrepreneurs.”

Other speakers at the announcement included: Elisa de la Vara, district director for Congressman Ed Pastor; Saundra Johnson, executive vice president of the Flinn Foundation, and Ron King, president and chief scientific officer for the nonprofit Catapult Bio.

Among GateWay’s notable academic offerings are several nursing degree programs and an array of health-care programs in such areas as clinical research coordination, nuclear medicine technology, and radiation therapy. Community College Week magazine this year ranked GateWay’s programs in Health Professions & Related Clinical Sciences 17th among community college nationwide.