Triad Seeking to Put in Place Breeding Ground for Biotech

June 1, 2012

“ That really has been a big plus for us, just the collaboration with other people here in the park,” Shugart says. “I didn’t suspect that, but that’s a major plus.”

Phil Shugart moved Carolina Liquid Chemistries from California to Win- ston-Salem in 2008 and set up shop in the Piedmont Triad Research Park. Now, four years later, he’s moved his company from a1,000-square-footlabspace into one nearly 10 times larger in the newly renovated Wake Forest Biotech Place.

Shugart will soon take on even more lab space for a spinoff company, Carolina Immunochemistries LLC, which he just incorporated in May.

Carolina Immunochemistries will make what’s called a homogenous vitamin D essay — in other words, a blood test to measure the amount of vitamin D in the human body. Normally, the test is run on a high-priced, cumber- some piece of equipment, but Shugart is willing to bet that the new company can simplify the test to the point where it can be run on an everyday common chemistry analyzer.

“ This could be a very big product for us, but we don’t have it on the market yet,” Shugart says. The 3,000-square-foot wet lab space that Carolina Immunochemistries LLC will occupy is one of several lab spaces available for young or startup biotechnology companies in Biotech Place. Providing affordable space is one of the missions of the newly opened building.

Shugart says the new company will be charged about $4,000 per month in rent when it moves into the lab space this July.

He’s planning to start the company with three scientists. The company has already led a patent for the test it hopes to take to market. The next step will be presenting the test to the Food and Drug Administration by year’s end.

Available resources

Carolina Immunochemistries LLC is a case-in-point of what the Triad’s biotechnology cluster hopes to provide to young or startup companies. Those offerings fall into four categories: affordable space and equipment; connections, relationships and collaborations with other researchers and similar companies; and a trained work force that’s capable of performing the highly skilled jobs biotech firms require.

Four years ago, Carolina Liquid Chemistries moved into space in PTRP within two days, which allowed Shugart to get research and development up and going very quickly. He’s expecting another quick move-in this summer. Meeting and collaborating with other researchers has also spanned no less than three R&D projects for the company, including the idea for Carolina Immunochemistries.

“ That really has been a big plus for us, just the collaboration with other people here in the park,” Shugart says. “I didn’t suspect that, but that’s a major plus.”

Another benefit of working in the scientific community of the PTRP is the immediate availability of expensive, but necessary, equipment.

“ There’s a lot of equipment that we don’t have to buy, that we can borrow,” Shugart says. “You don’t have to go out and spend $1 million to equip a lab.”

Shugart’s new company will take up 3,000 square feet of the 15,000 square feet in Biotech Place that’s been specifically set aside for small-business incubation.

Nearly half of all biotech companies in the Triad are less than 5 years old, and experts say the need for resources for young biotech companies — particularly to cross the hurdle from startup to mid-stage — is still great.