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Newsbeat: Biotech in the Bayou State

The revitalization of the downtown stretch of Canal Street has been the subject of a lot of speeches and speculation, but recently the area’s potential has a new example standing in concrete, glass and steel.

The New Orleans BioInnovation Center has officially opened, and this $47-million, state-funded building of labs, offices and conference rooms is already home to a cluster of new medical research firms and associated businesses.

One goal of the building is to make sure that when local researchers or firms develop new biotech products, they have the facilities and resources here in New Orleans to grow their business and keep the jobs they generate local. Without these resources in place, biotech entrepreneurs too often have to sell their companies or move to other cities.

“We have to reverse that trend,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu said during a dedication event for the center. “We have to add value here to our raw talent. We have to add value here to our intellectual capital.”

The center is a LEED-rated “green” building that takes up about half a block of Canal Street. It is an early salvo in what city officials promise will be a whole district of medical and research-related facilities and businesses, anchored by the planned University Medical Center and the Veterans Affairs medical complex now under development farther up Canal. Officials call this area the city’s “BioDistrict,” and they place hope in its potential to generate new professional jobs here, from biotech research to specialty financing to marketing and legal services for growing firms.

For its part, the BioInnovation Center has room for about 80 companies, though at the time of the building’s dedication only five biotech start-ups and two venture capital firms had opened shop inside. But BioInnovation Center president Aaron Miscenich said 12 more companies are in the pipeline, which would exceed the center’s business plan for pace of growth.

The center’s board includes representatives from both Tulane University and Louisiana State University, a move aimed at fostering collaboration between the two in research and development with shared facilities and resources.

“The value of this space is in folks sharing with each other,” said Miscenish. “You can’t buy that. You can’t read that in a book.”

 

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