"No-Strings-Attached", JLABS's crown jewel
Article / Rang-Jun Lin Photography / Yong-Xiang Lai
Building a business is hard, but you might have a bit more luck if you build on in San Diego, because there are many famous major international companies that could have your back.
For instance, the biotechnology and pharmaceuticals company, Johnson & Johnson, has a globally renowned startup incubation center JLABS, currently based in USA and Canada.
Its most rapidly developing site with flagship facilities is located near San Diego’s Golden Triangle, the Torrey Pines Science Park.
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JLABS was founded in 2012, and belongs to Johnson & Johnson Innovation. In less than five years, it has attracted over 250 startup teams.
This year, J&J was ranked No. 3 on the popular international magazine Fast Company’s list of Most Innovative Companies because "JLABS develops startup teams!"
JLABS offers a unique support named the "No-Strings-Attached Model".
"JLABS does not take the equity or IP from the startup teams; that is, everything still belongs to the original team!" said Kara Bortone, the Director of Startup Resource and Development at JLABS San Diego. JLABS will offer all the necessary software and hardware resources, including the laboratory, experimental equipment, and conference rooms, etc.
JLABS also holds mentor courses for common legal and marketing issues that startup teams will face. Furthermore, when startup teams encounter a bottleneck in their research, JLABS will arrange for Johnson & Johnson’s internal experts or other teams in the lab for a solution. JLABS will even help look for funding and matching startup resources.
So, what does JLABS actually get out of all these? “We charge rent!” said Bortone in laughter. The flexible rental plans include office or laboratory only, or just the work bench. The monthly rent is $1000 to $1500 USD to meet various needs.
In fact, the close partnership with the startup teams helps JLABS understand the latest industry and research trends. However, the confidential research is still mutually protected. For instance JLABS San Diego and its parent group Janssen Research & Development Center are located in the same group of buildings; the connecting pathway is separated by one security wall.
There are two ways to join JLABS, by invitation or application. A dedicated committee will review the qualifications of the new startup teams. Key qualifications include "sustainable business model", "robust research ability", "product innovation", "team history", etc.
Visitors who arrive on the level of JLABS will not miss the white wall full of metallic name tags.
"Lin BioScience" team joins JLABS San Diego and is developing three new breakthrough therapies.
(1st from the left is Irene Wang, R&D / Business Development Director of Lin BioScience)
Strict Control, Startup Team Review Every 3 Years
Every metal plate with stylish designs in the size of a tablet PC is engraved with company names, representing a startup team. JLABS San Diego currently has 36 startup teams, with biotechnology themes including pharmaceuticals, diagnostics, treatment, digital healthcare, medical equipment, etc.
There are six conference rooms, a community room, and an open air terrace available for parties. The pure white decor looks like any other company, but turn around a corner and you will find laboratories of all sizes hidden within.
"This is the Concept Lab, a shared space, and the teams could rent the benches for use”, Bortone pointed at a large laboratory and indicated that the 20,000 square feet public space is shared with other teams, and is for companies who do not require strict privacy.
Besides acting as the landlord, JLABS is more like a super nanny that helps with all kinds of issues. “They are like a good friend that asks if we have any problems from time to time!” said Irene Wang, R&D / Business Development Director of Taiwanese startup Lin BioScience at JLABS.
Lin BioScience has rented a laboratory and an office since April this year and has also been invited to another incubator BioLabs of international pharmaceuticals companies Novartis, Sanofi, and Braun, Germany.
The key to Lin BioScience’s move was the three new breakthrough therapies in development. For instance one of the medication was LBS-008, a first-in-class new therapy targeting Dry Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD); the project received a 10 million USD funding from the National Institutes of Health.
At JLABS, there is a special stage created for founders, the “JLABS SPOTLIGHT”. It is a quarterly event that invites four companies on stage for a presentation, with all the startup teams and external experts.
"There is an 80 to 90 percent chance for JLABS teams to pass the startup stage!" said Bortone. With the grand review every three years, those who cannot make it will still be excluded in the end.
The longest period for a current startup to stay is four years. It seems that JLABS is a loving but also strict super nanny.