fb-pixel Skip to main content

In life sciences and biotech, incubators are hot

Early-stage startups find secure, well-funded launching pads in Massachusetts.

“We’re a combination of a fund and an accelerator,” says The Engine’s president and CEO, Katie Rae.Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff/File

With lab costs rising and biotech companies sprouting like crocuses in the spring, a new crop of Massachusetts incubators — including entrants from Harvard and MIT — offers temporary accommodations to risky startups that may cure the world’s ills (or fizzle).

Pioneers such as Cambridge Innovation Center have long been homes for early-stage life sciences and high-tech ventures and others harnessing Bay State brainpower. They’ve been joined in recent years by new players such as Lab Central and Mass Innovation Labs that nurture biomedical fledglings until they’re big enough to take flight. “Incubators are critical in a place where real estate is going through the roof,” says Travis McCready, president and CEO of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, which lists more than two dozen incubators across the state on its website. “They’re the primary way young companies can get off the ground, find lab space, and get access to the equipment they need.”


Two well-funded newcomers, which began putting down roots last fall, are affiliated with prestigious research universities. Pagliuca Harvard Life Lab, located next to Harvard Business School, was seeded with a multimillion-dollar donation from Bain Capital cochairman Steve Pagliuca and his wife, Judy. Its express aim: incubating life sciences startups founded by Harvard faculty, alumni, students, and postdoctoral scholars.

On the other side of the Charles, MIT is bankrolling and providing work space to big-thinking entrepreneurs in biotech and other fields through a new venture called The Engine. It will set up shop in Central Square this summer with a capital pool of more than $150 million, amassed from MIT and outside investors.

“We’re a combination of a fund and an accelerator,” says The Engine’s president and CEO, Katie Rae. “We hope to create world-changing companies that will grow in the Boston region.”

Robert Weisman is a Globe staff writer. Send comments to magazine@globe.com. Follow us on Twitter @BostonGlobeMag.