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Tuesday, Jun 6, 2023

Facility Acquired To Help Nurture Biotech Businesses

When Amgen announced last year that it planned to cut 14 percent of its workforce, there was much concern that the bioengineers affected by the layoffs would have to travel elsewhere for continued work in the life sciences field. To prevent such an exodus from the Conejo Valley, the BioTech Forum was launched to give those seeking to launch their own biotech ventures an opportunity to do so in a collective of like-minded entrepreneurs called the Gold Coast Bio Center. On Aug. 5, Brent Reinke, cofounder of the BioTech Forum as well as chairman of the Gold Coast Business Forum, announced that an Agoura Hills facility has been secured to serve as a base for the assortment of biotech startups expected to settle there. “We’re pretty confident that by March, April of next year, we could have this up and running with people,” Reinke said. “It was important to come up with a fairly aggressive timeline.” The two-story facility at 29901 Agoura Road was built in 1981, renovated this year and occupies 38,000 square feet. Pre-leasing will begin as soon as Aug. 31. When the center opens its doors, the goal is to have eight to 10 tenants, according to Reinke. Each tenant will be given flexible lease terms,from two to three years. Realty Bancorp Equities will serve as landlord. Poliquin Kellog Design Group is serving as project architect, while ISEC will provide the laboratory equipment and furniture to be used in the facility. “As far as tenant involvement, this is the Cadillac of all facilities,” Reinke said. Doug Jacobsen, a Realty Bancorp Equities principal, agrees. The company has invested $11 million in the center and plans to invest another $5 million. While it owns shopping centers, office centers and industrial buildings, Jacobsen said that the company seeks to “go out and find things that are unique.” He considers the Gold Coast Bio Center to be one of its most unique projects ever. “We believe if we build it, they will come,” Jacobsen said of the facility. “We’re not looking for more of the same. We really want to do something different, and we’re feeling the time is now.” To attract prospective tenants, Gold Coast Bio Center representatives are highlighting what they believe are the facility’s strengths. Namely, the center is striving to provide an environment ideal for biotech startups, including access to a variety of products, services, equipment and building infrastructure. In particular, the facility will have private and common office areas, private and common labs, conference and meeting rooms, a work room, storage, an IT room and more. Equipment and furniture, alike, will be adaptable. For example, there will be mobile instrument carts that allow tenants to move casework into configurations that suit them best. The carts will feature adjustable shelving and flexible, movable suspended cabinets. In addition, overhead panels can open up floor space, allowing furniture and equipment systems to be relocated. There will also be storage for waste, along with sinks with workspace on either side. “We’re really trying to emphasize flexibility here,” Reinke said. “It gives tenants flexibility to change things up.” While Reinke seeks to give tenants the ability to make adjustments, he also wants the center to house a good tenant mix to ensure that it develops a good reputation. That’s because more than a few other such “incubators” have failed. Wayne Davey, who is on the center’s project team and currently serves as vice president of finance at a biotech company in Los Angeles, believes that it will have a different fate. “The reason they fail so much is because they can be everywhere. (Ours) will be life sciences-based,” he said. “You don’t want too creative of a mixture. Though, there is room for diversity in the Life Science tack.” Other elements of the Gold Coast Bio Center that Davey and Reinke are billing as strengths include the fact that, because the center will be home to an assortment of companies, the capital investment to set it up will be reduced. Furthermore, businesses in the facility will have access to biotech contacts at research universities, such as California State University, Channel Islands; the University of Southern California and California Institute of Technology. Businesses may also enjoy industry exposure through the BioTech Forum’s meetings and conferences. The center is also highlighting its advisory services as something from which businesses can benefit. Such services will include management consulting and support; introductions to human capital and investors; and professional services in law, accounting, banking and more. At present, Gold Coast Bio Center is in discussions with professionals said to have a good sense of how such centers operate to serve on three advisory boards: medical, technical and business. “We’re going to put together Class A advisory boards,” Reinke said.

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