11 Biotech Firms Fresh Off Fundraises That Could Soon Be Looking For Lab Space
The search for lab space has become increasingly expensive and competitive, with the challenge of low vacancy rates exacerbated by a river of venture capital money flowing toward startups.
Biotech VC funding hit a record $43.3B last year, according to Newmark’s 2021 year-end analysis, topping 2020’s then-record $29.9B haul. With that funding closely tied to startup expansion and the signing of new leases, a number of newly flush firms are battling for new lab and office space right now.
“Historically, there’s a high correlation around money raised and the need for expansion,” Colliers Director of Research Aaron Jodka said. “Typically, expansion happens six to nine months after a big fundraising round, sometimes sooner depending on the firm.”
The type of science each startup focuses on will largely dictate the space they need, Jodka said. A $100M raise can correlate into a 100K SF lease, but a biomanufacturing startup, for instance, will likely need a lot more room than a biotech startup that’s moving from stealth mode and needs a small lab and office space of, say, 25K SF. Correlation formulas are far from exact, but even with a maturing market and receding venture funding flow, it’s clear more money translates to more real estate in an increasingly competitive market.
“Startups are on the clock from day one,” Cushman & Wakefield Life Sciences Research Lead Brendan Carroll said. “You want the money coming in, and soon, and in order to get there, you need the space to ramp up research as quickly as you can.”
Even though talent is the biggest expense for any startup looking to scale, finding the best staff often requires finding real estate in competitive clusters in the big three markets of Boston, San Diego and San Francisco. Those three cities, which will capture 80% of funding, will be the most competitive in terms of finding new space: Cushman & Wakefield is tracking 140 companies looking for 5.7M SF in the Boston area alone right now.
And funding rounds have been increasing: Data from PitchBook shows seed valuations last year jumping from below $10M to $14.1M on average, and early stage deals spiking from roughly $70M to $109.3M on average.
“Higher raises means quicker scaling, which means more real estate than five or 10 years ago,” Jodka said.
Bisnow looked at recent fundraising data from Crunchbase and PitchBook, obtaining lists of the largest raises in the last six months and focusing specifically on early stage firms with significant Series A or B raises, which generally lead to space expansion. These 11 firms are potential candidates for real estate deals this year, and Bisnow has reached out to all of them to seek comment on their expansion plans and real estate footprints. The list, and available public details, are below:
Super-resolution fluorescence microscopy might not be clear, but Eikon’s unique approach to drug discovery — utilizing the work of a Nobel Prize-winning chemist to peer into live cells as a means to develop new drugs and cures — has been a straightforward and successful pitch for this Bay Area startup. Eikon’s thesis is its super-powerful, proprietary visualization tools will allow the company's scientists to see how proteins interact live and reveal new targets for therapeutics. Having raised more than $668M since its founding in 2019, the company said it is looking to roughly double its 100-person team after this last raise. It is currently headquartered at 3929 Point Eden Way, a 72K SF, low-rise lab building in the East Bay.
Headquarters: Watertown, Massachusetts, and Brisbane, California
Fundraising: $400M Series A announced Oct. 7
Focused on cracking the code of complex brain diseases, Neumora is among multiple startups on this list attempting to use high-tech analysis and machine learning to develop precision medicines. In addition to its significant raise, Neumora has a $100M equity deal with pharma giant Amgen, which will provide proprietary datasets to feed into its data science platform, which seeks to map disease progression and connect patients to targeted treatments, speeding up and de-risking the clinical trial phase. The firm also brought in John Reynders, the founding chief information officer at Moderna Therapeutics, as chief data sciences officer. It leases lab space at 65 Grove St. in Watertown from BioMed Realty and office space at 8000 Marina Blvd. in Brisbane, on a site where landlord Healthpeak Properties is planning to develop an additional 1M SF of life sciences space.
Headquarters: Cambridge, Massachusetts
Fundraising: $370M Series B announced Nov. 18
Utilizing what it calls generative biology, Generate's drug generation platform can create antibodies, peptides, enzymes, and cell and gene therapies to meet numerous therapeutic needs. With its new round of funding, Generate plans to scale up its workforce of 80 people to 500 and plans to build two facilities to expand its wet lab, machine learning and data generation capabilities, according to TechCrunch. It leases space from BioMed Realty at the Blackstone affiliate's 103K SF 26 Landsdowne St. property, a redeveloped Sears Roebuck & Co. shoe factory a few blocks from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Headquarters: Woodland Hills, California
Fundraising: $250M Series B announced Nov. 16
Founded in December 2020, Southern California-based Acelyrin has focused its research on izokibep, a molecule currently in the midst of a number of clinical trials to potentially treat uveitis, a vision-threatening form of inflammation inside the eye, a chronic form of arthritis, and a chronic inflammatory disease.
"It's this $250 million Series B that just makes it that much more real, tangible and vibrant for us, that enables us to continue to attract innovators and talent in the area, as well as enhance the opportunities of all of those people who are already in the area,” Acelyrin CEO Shao-Lee Lin told Dot.LA. "We really are after building a long-term sustainable biopharma company that ultimately has fully integrated R&D as well as commercialization.”
Acelyrin was launched in an Alexandria Real Estate Equities-owned incubator in Thousand Oaks, California, VC Star reported at the time. Its current mailing address, according to PitchBook, is at a postal service in Woodland Hills, a few miles east of Thousand Oaks and northwest of Los Angeles.
Fundraising: $218M Series A announced Dec. 7
Spearheaded by veteran chemist and biotech entrepreneur Gary Glick, Odyssey plans to focus on bringing advances in medicinal chemistry to bear on inflammatory diseases and oncology. Glick hasn’t revealed the precise focuses of Odyssey’s work, but it has been hiring at a fast clip, recruiting 100-plus staff since July, BioPharma Dive reported. A third of new hires are data scientists, underscoring the company’s focus on computational chemistry.
Fundraising: $215M Series B announced Nov. 9
Arbor, which focuses on liver and central nervous system diseases, finished the year on a hot streak, raising a huge Series B a few months after striking a deal with pharma giant Vertex for its gene-editing tech that may be worth up to $1.2B over time. The company seeks to continue to develop its proprietary genomic editors, aiming to unlock the potential of genetic medicine. Arbor signed a 36K SF lease with landlord Bulfinch at Cambridge Discovery Park in September 2019.
Headquarters: South San Francisco
Fundraising: $200M Series B announced Dec. 17
Formerly Esker Therapeutics, this rebranded Bay Area biotech, incubated by Foresight Labs, is focused on tests and trials for its lead compound, ESK-001, which is under development to treat psoriasis. When it launched in May with a $70M fundraising round, the San Francisco Business Times reported it was looking for a lease in South San Francisco. Its website says it leases space at 611 Gateway Blvd. in Oyster Point.
Headquarters: Emeryville, California
Fundraising: $175M Series B announced Jan. 25
This Bay Area cell-and-gene therapy startup is developing a CRISPR-based gene editing system that its executives claim is more accurate than current platforms because of its novel combination of natural DNA samples and artificial intelligence analytics. This system caught the eye of Moderna, which launched a strategic research and development partnership with the firm in November. According to BioSpace, this latest funding round will go toward expansion of manufacturing, automation and AI infrastructure. It signed a 24K SF lease with Wareham Properties at EmeryStation North, a 170K SF adaptive reuse life sciences building, in 2020.
Fundraising: $125M Series A announced Nov. 17
A cutting-edge purveyor of epigenetic medicine, which seeks to regulate gene expression by using the body’s natural mechanism to, in effect, “turn off” a gene, this Boston-area startup believes it can open up a new frontier of treatment. It launched with its sizable funding round in November and leases space in the 676K SF One Kendall Square campus owned by Alexandria Real Estate Equities.
Fundraising: $101M Series A announced Feb. 9
Another tech-focused firm, Seismic seeks to take the basics of biologics, including structural biology, protein engineering and translational immunology, and utilize machine learning to speed up the path to viability. The startup launched last month with the fundraising, which was led by Lightspeed Venture Partners, and is helmed by former Harvard Medical School faculty. It is unclear what, if any, real estate footprint Seismic launched with — its launch announcement only said it was in the "Boston biotechnology hub."
Headquarters: South San Francisco
Fundraising: $100M Series A announced Jan. 27
Focused on novel small molecule medicines targeting G protein-coupled receptors — considered an untapped area of potential treatments and therapeutics — Septerna seeks to analyze and realize the potential of these compounds on an industrial scale. It launched in January with the fundraise and occupies a suite in the 12-building, 630K SF Healthpeak Properties campus Pointe Grand in South San Francisco.
CORRECTION, MARCH 9, 4:30 P.M. ET: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that One Kendall Square is owned by Related Beal. It’s currently owned by Alexandria Real Estate Equities.