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Innovation & Startups

Test your theory at Pittsburgh's first community biotech lab this fall

Many communities offer resources on how to shoot a basketball, swing a bat, or catch a football — but there’s often no place for one to channel an interest in science, says Andre Samuel, who recently received his Ph.D. in biological sciences from Duquesne University. Thanks to a partnership with Duquesne University and Urban Innovation21, such a resource is coming to Pittsburgh this fall.
 
Duquesne and Urban Innovation21, a public-private partnership that boosts regional economic development through innovation-driven entrepreneurship, are teaming up to establish Pittsburgh’s first community biotechnology laboratory space, which Samuel has been selected to direct.
 
The lab and wide-ranging access to it will benefit local education, innovation and economy. The facility will be open to middle and high school students, college students, and small businesses, says Alan W. Seadler, associate academic vice president for research and technology at Duquesne. Users will be trained on how to use the lab safely and efficiently.
 
“No biotechnology space is available for use by high school educators and their students outside of what is accessible within their school system, and the university lab spaces which might be used are always in high demand by professors and their students,” says Seadler. “This lab will provide educational and community outreach, in keeping with Duquesne’s strategic plan, particularly for urban students whose schools might not have these capabilities. It also will give startup biomedical companies access to research-grade instruments.”

William Generett, president and CEO of Urban Innovation21, says the build out for the lab will begin in early September and it will be open to the public in the late fall.
 
“There’s an excitement about the lab. We can’t open it soon enough to fill the need,” says Generett.
 
Larry Miller, the life science executive in residence at Innovation Works, says the new lab will provide a similar catalytic experience that the Tech Shop did for rapid prototyping, but for the biotech science community.
 
“Their biotech lab will provide “wet labs” to university grads and undergrads as well as entrepreneurs. This is the population from whom most of our start-ups are imagined and launched. Having ready access to wet lab space, standard lab equipment and state of the art tools will speed up the testing of their hypothesis. Overall, our goal is to keep these talented scientists and engineers in the region.”
 
“At Innovation Works, about one-third of our investment portfolio for the last 10 years has been in life science companies,” says Miller. “So, we support the Biotech Lab concept—it solves a number of limited resource constraints and opens up the life science experience to the general population. It’s just what we need to develop biotech engineers and scientists and compete in the global economy today.”
 
Partners serving on the biotech lab’s advisory panel include ASSET STEM EducationCarlow UniversityCommunity College of Allegheny CountyCarnegie Science CenterDuquesne University’s School of EducationPenn State Center PittsburghThermoFisher and UPMC.
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