*image credit: Prince William County Department of Economic Development
NOVA BioScience Center Addresses Critical
Wet Lab Space Needs for Region
Sponsored by DPR Construction
Prince William County and VirginiaBio recently welcomed visitors to the new 33,000 square feet of wet lab space at the Northern Virginia BioScience Center, showcasing the county’s work toward becoming a life sciences hotspot.
The new building — which is located at the 1,500-acre Innovation Technology Park — is set to deliver in February and is already half-leased, according to Matt Brady, vice president at Scheer Partners. Composed of 15 lab spaces built to BSL-2 standards, the building offers spaces starting at 980 square feet. The BioScience Center will also be fairly adaptable to companies’ needs.
“We do have the ability to change labs. Each lab has its own fume hood, its own safety cabinets, its own safety showers,” said Austin Haynes, senior vice president at Holladay Properties, the developer of the building. “We have the ability to expand labs to contract labs, We really can work with your needs.”
The project began three years ago when Haynes discussed the need for more wet lab space with a friend at George Mason University, which has its SciTech campus just down the road from Innovation Park. After working with both the Prince William County and Virginia governments, the project was able to get off the ground.
“And then right in the middle of course COVID hit,” Haynes said. “So it suddenly became even a much more important project.”
The location is convenient for a variety of reasons, one of which is the Prince William Science Accelerator in the same complex. The accelerator houses nine wet labs between 440 and 1141 square feet. As more companies outgrow their small spaces, they look for mid-sized spaces to which they can “graduate.”
“We’ve had a couple of companies successfully do that. Ceres Nano, they were our first graduate from George Mason University to the accelerator,” said Tom Flynn, deputy director of the Prince William County Office of Economic Development. “And now they take about 20,000 square feet in one building, plus an additional 50,000 in another building in Innovation Park.”
Labs in the Northern Virginia BioSciences Center will also be available for companies not involved in the accelerator to lease. Flynn hopes that companies both already in Prince William County and companies outside the county consider the space.
Last year, the Department of Economic Development launched IGNITE Grants, which grants $25,000 to $50,000 to pre-revenue start-ups who will stay in Prince William County for three years after the funding is granted. One of the recipients, Viva Vita, moved from closer to D.C. out to Prince William County as a result.
The county has taken off as a life sciences destination in the last decade, as more companies recognize the value of George Mason’s SciTech campus and the lower real estate prices compared to counties closer to the district.
“When you look at scientific hubs, you have the technologies, the intellectual property, the talent pool, some sort of academic presence, and then you have the facilities. And what was missing here was the facilities,” said Brady. “I think with that new facility it’ll just help to foster this whole community.”
The Department of Economic Development has made it a point in recent years to push for more life sciences companies, as well.
“We are your resource, we’re here to help. We’re here to help with the development side, to really bring new assets and products so that businesses can grow,” said Christina Winn, executive director of the Prince William County Department of Economic Development. “And we’re definitely hands on to help our business community.”
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