Bioscience incubator to open in Southwest

SOUTH PORTLAND — Oregon Translational Research and Development Institute (OTRADI) is planning to open and operate a 13,000-square-foot multi-tenant bioscience complex known as the OTRADI Bioscience Incubator (OBI).

“An incubator is lab and office space that we will build out to accommodate five to six small bioscience companies,” OTRADI Director Jennifer Fox says. “It will give companies a chance to have a shared environment where they can learn from another.”

According to Fox, this communal situation will also be economically beneficial.

“They’ll have … a series of common equipment rooms,” she says, “so they won’t be responsible for having to buy the very pricey startup equipment that you would need if you built out your own space.”

OTRADI hopes to further support the business side of bioscience by outfitting the incubator with state-of-the-art conference rooms and bringing in entrepreneurs to mentor the companies that call the OBI home.

Fox says OTRADI is currently in sublease negotiations with three different companies in the field of therapeutics.

“Some of the companies who are interested in the space … they’re looking for private investment, like from venture capital folks, but some of the younger companies might be looking for help with writing their first series of small-business grants, or helping to refine their business plan or get connections around the community for outsourcing things that they need,” she says.

Slated for completion in spring 2013, the OBI will be located in the Willamette Wharf building at 4640 SW Macadam Ave. Fox says OTRADI chose the space because it met specifications for a privately owned building able to accommodate a nearly one-third-acre bioscience complex and close to Oregon Health & Science University's Center for Health & Healing.The future location of the OTRADI Bioscience Incubator.

“Right now we have a lot of connections with OHSU, and we work with their researchers on scientific projects,” Fox says of OTRADI. “We help them write grants; we have a lot of connections there. But I can envision that companies might need to have advice from a toxicologist or a person who has knowledge of pharmacokinetics or specialized kind of medical needs. And we would be able to advise them as to who these people are at OHSU and around the state.”

OHSU was involved in the initial proposal to create OTRADI and today, Dan Dorsa, OHSU vice president for research, serves on the OTRADI board.

“We’ve been very involved with it. … We sometimes make instruments and other things that they need available to them to help with their businesses … and we try to help them if we can identify people who are interested in investing, venture capitalists,” Dorsa says. “We absolutely try to be as supportive as we can because we see this as an important part of our mission in economic development.”

The Willamette Wharf building is located in the North Macadam urban renewal area, which was established by the Portland City Council in 1999 to, among other things, facilitate economic development and job creation through a new research cluster integrated with OHSU.

Fox says she expects the OBI to advance this mission.

“I think that this is the kind of hub of activity that people are looking for. You’ve got people that are doing important scientific work there, then you’ve got all the people that work for them and know they’re building the waterfront area piece by piece,” she says. “The more people that are down there, the better so that they can have burgeoning subareas around the Center for Health & Healing. When they first put in that building, there wasn’t as much activity down there as there is now. It really affects the neighborhood; it’s very positive.”

Dorsa agrees. “This is a fantastic development. One of the problems that we’ve had with the whole South Waterfront development is that we have not had a space like this for private companies to go to begin to take root and grow,” he says. “If these companies are successful, they’ll be hiring more employees at a very high rate.”

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