Technology

Mass Innovation Labs targets smaller startups

A laboratory area at the Mass Innovation Labs.
Jim Davis/Globe Staff/File
A laboratory area at the Mass Innovation Labs.

A year after opening its incubator for early-stage biotechs in Kendall Square, Mass Innovation Labs is preparing to add six new “innovation suites” for smaller companies and bench space for up to two dozen researchers.

The new space, which is currently being built out, will open in July within the 124,000 square feet of shared lab space Mass Innovation Labs leases at 675 West Kendall St. in Cambridge, said Amrit Chaudhuri, the incubator’s cofounder and chief executive.

Much of the site is currently subleased to 10 biotech startups, employing between 15 and 80 researchers and scientists. They include gene-editing pioneers Editas Medicine Inc. and CRISPR Therapeutics, and Radius Health Inc., a biotech developing treatments for the bone-depleting condition osteoporosis. Some of Mass Innovation Labs tenants have their headquarters at other locations, but run research programs at the Kendall Square location.

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The new modular innovation suites and shared bench space will attract companies at different stages of research and development, enabling smaller companies that meet their scientific milestones to move into larger space within the incubator, Chaudhuri said.

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“We’re pioneering a new way to look at infrastructure,” he said. “There will be top-tier scientists from different companies working side by side. We’re building in the utmost modularity because it’s important to succeed fast or fail fast. We anticipate companies will do proof-of-concept [research] work here before moving to larger space or moving on to the next project.”

Tenants in the innovation suites, each of which could house up to five scientists, will have access to shared rooms dedicated to viral, bacterial, RNA and DNA, and mammalian cell research, as well as animal research labs and on-site contract research support.

The innovation suites and shared bench space could prove attractive as a scientific launching pad for biotech startups hatched and initially housed at local life sciences venture capital firms such as Atlas Venture, Flagship Ventures, and Third Rock Ventures, said Chaudhuri.

“It’s the first stop for these companies to go from being virtual to nonvirtual,” Chaudhuri said.

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Chaudhuri, who started Mass Innovation Labs last year with cofounders PC Zhu and Seth Taylor, is backed by the private investment group Breeds Hill Capital.

Mass Innovation Labs isn’t the only organization providing shared lab space in Cambridge, a life sciences research hub. The nonprofit Lab Central, which opened in 2013 across from Technology Square, houses about 25 startups and groups of scientists in a 28,000-square-foot building owned by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Cambridge Innovation Center, the largest incubator, is home to hundreds of high-tech and life sciences startups at One Broadway.

Mass Innovation Labs, the newest entrant, is looking to expand aggressively. Its Kendall Square building also leases space to biopharma companies Sanofi Genzyme and Momenta Pharmaceuticals Inc., so Mass Innovation Labs has signed a letter of intent for an additional 100,000 square feet of shared lab space at another site in Cambridge. It is also looking at potential sites to launch a West Coast biotech incubator in California.

Robert Weisman can be reached at robert.weisman@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeRobW.