Setting Up Lab Space for Biotech Start-ups and Emerging Companies

Biotech lab space requirements differ from those of other labs and research facilities. Generally speaking, biotech labs must be equipped with robust safety features designed to mitigate risks to researchers, other lab personnel, and the community at large.

Due to the stringent regulations governing biotech lab spaces and facilities, it can be time-consuming and difficult for start-ups and emerging biotechnology companies to access the resources they need to grow. Unfortunately, leasing and retrofitting a standalone office space to meet specific needs can be a time & money sink.  

To circumvent these obstacles, biotech start-ups can consider looking for shared lab space for lease, as doing so could keep time and costs lower than doing everything oneself.  Here’s some information about setting up lab space (from our experience) at Bonneville Labs science co-working space, to help frame the forks in the road .

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Biotech Lab Space Requirements

When looking for lab space for lease, it’s important to ensure that the facility meets all relevant requirements. In terms of biotech lab space requirements, you should be mindful of the following factors:

  • Square Footage: Generally, you need 200-400 square feet per researcher plus office space
  • Utilities:  Labs generally need more than traditional office or industrial/flex tenants when it comes to: Electric power, HVAC, natural gas, Diesel generators for emergency power and dedicated circuits, water, sewer and waste removal.
  • Equipment: Life science companies need several pieces of equipment to conduct effective research — if the space you choose doesn’t provide this equipment, you will need to purchase and install it, which can be expensive
  • Safety: Biolabs need a number of safety features, including eye-wash stations and biohazardous containers and disposal, non-pervious flooring and baseboards, sinks for handwashing, and ventilation systems with single-pass air and higher than normal cubic-feet-per-minute air movement than traditional office or industrial/flex buildings.
  • Lease Length: In most instances, you should seek out a short-term lease, as it’s difficult to predict your future space needs
biotech lab space

Is Any Building Suitable for a Lab Space?

Technically speaking, you could build out any office space into a suitable biotech laboratory, provided you can obtain the proper permitting. However, to be suitable as a biotech research space, lab facilities need robust infrastructure, including:

  • Electrical: Pharma, genomics, and other types of biotech research involve sophisticated machines, each of which consumes a significant amount of electricity — as such, your lab space must have extensive electrical infrastructure
  • Plumbing: Under California law, lab facilities need eye washing stations, sinks, and other cleaning equipment; to accommodate this, you need a space with a complete network of plumbing and drainage
  • HVAC: The climate within your lab space must be carefully controlled using reliable HVAC equipment
  • Other Safety Measures: Any functional lab space needs eyewash stations, fume hoods, biosafety cabinets, chemical storage areas, glass wash stations, and onsite autoclaves to promote safety

If your lab space is lacking in any of these areas, you’ll need to invest capital and time to make it suitable for your needs.

Finding the Right Space

When searching for lab space, you have three main options: buying or building your own laboratory space, leasing a private lab, or leasing a shared space.

Buying or building your own space is the most costly approach. In the Bay Area, you can expect to pay between $250 and $1,000 per square foot when building a new space. Retrofitting an existing commercial real estate space can involve similar expenses.

Leasing a private, standalone facility can cost tens of thousands per month, but it’s far more cost effective than building. Renting a shared space allows you to split some of the overhead costs with other tenants, avoid or minimize equipment expenses, and access flexible facilities.

Regardless of which approach you choose, make sure you tour each space. You’ll also want to research each site’s usage history and purpose when exploring commercial real estate listings.

While retrofitted spaces can effectively meet your needs, it’s important to ensure that they have the underlying plumbing, electrical, and HVAC infrastructure you require.

Coworking Laboratories for Biotech

A shared space may be the best course if you want to access the lab equipment you need while keeping costs down and maximizing flexibility. When you rent a shared space, you’ll have minimal equipment expenses, reduced disposal fees, and decreased overhead.

That said, it’s vital that you choose a reputable, transparent provider when renting coworking lab space.

Some providers require a right to invest or want partial ownership of your intellectual property. Others, like Bonneville Labs, don’t require any such investment rights and allow you to retain all intellectual property. To use a Bonneville Labs facility, you simply sign a short-term lease and make payments as defined in the service agreement.

Must-Ask Questions of Biotech Lab Safety

Coworking labs can be a great option if you need affordable and flexible lab space in the Bay Area, provided the space adequately meets your needs. Before signing a lease, you should ask questions like:

  • What type of shared equipment is available?
  • How long does it take to move in?
  • How much is the upfront cost?
  • Are conference rooms included with the lease?
  • Who is using the incubator space?
  • Does the company have an EH&S specialist on staff who can review and monitor compliance?

Reputable lab space providers will be able to satisfactorily answer all of these questions and support the goals of your biotech start-up.

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Services Available

Bonneville Labs can accommodate you if you need access to your own lab and want to ensure the facility meets biotech labs’ space requirements as outlined by California law.

We rent laboratory space that’s move-in ready and equipped with the latest safety and research equipment. We provide favorable lease terms and can connect you with the space and equipment you need to pursue innovation.

Our services include:

  • Private labs or co-working space
  • Fully furnished office spaces
  • Flexible lease terms for growing teams
  • A simplified application process
  • Environmental health and safety support
  • Mentors
  • Lab equipment installation services (freezers, fume hoods, biosafety cabinets, incubators, autoclaves, and more)
  • Lab equipment training
  • Glass wash stations
  • Staffed shipping, receiving, security, and reception
  • Facility repairs and maintenance

To learn more about our tailorable, scalable services, connect with our team today.