FEATURE STORY: Memphis Bioworks – Breaking Ground On Medical Breakthroughs

The Memphis Specialized Laboratory will open Spring 2013.
The Memphis Specialized Laboratory will open Spring 2013.

By Business Facilities Staff
From the March/April 2012 issue

Memphis Bioworks Foundation has broken ground for a $22 million, 26,000-square-foot Memphis Specialized Laboratory on the campus of the UT-Baptist Research Park. Construction of the facility is made possible through a combination of public and private funding, including a State of Tennessee grant, Federal New Market Tax Credits, local bank financing, Memphis Bioworks Foundation equity contributions and local philanthropy. Completion of the facility is targeted for spring 2013.

When completed, the facility will feature 18 labs specially designed for the testing and potential commercialization work that companies need to do to get products approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The Laboratory will act as a local shared resource to grow the Memphis bioscience sector, with a primary focus on research that will expedite and localize the path to FDA approval for companies with new products in development, primarily for orthopedics, vaccine research and development and pharmacology research. This lab will be the only commercial Good Laboratory Practices (GLP)-focused specialty lab facility in Memphis and the region.

“A specialized research lab such as this is vital to support the emerging biomedical research in Memphis and the region,” said Dr. Steve Bares, president and executive director of the Memphis Bioworks Foundation. “This facility is not only essential to attract and retain nationally recognized researchers in the orthopedic and musculoskeletal disciplines but also to act as a key driver to the future growth of the bioscience industry in the Memphis area by supporting local companies and attracting companies from outside the region to potentially relocate to Memphis.”

Currently, an estimated $3-$5 million in research activity per year is being spent outside the Memphis community in order to complete FDA required laboratory studies by Memphis area companies and entrepreneurs. This facility will be utilized to both retain that local research spending and generate local employment.

The project is expected to create more than 50 full time equivalent jobs both at the facility and in the community with average pay of more than $53,000. The facility will be a core lab of the overall Research Park that is expected to create, when completed, 5,000 jobs which will average salary in excess of $75,000 per year.

“This project is beneficial to our bioscience community and the Memphis business community on so many levels,” said Bares. “It is itself an entrepreneurial operation and job creator. It offers a valuable speed-to-market tool for local business, which means saved money for them and saved lives of those who benefit when new clinical care is granted FDA approval. It allows local companies an option for local quality control of their required research. And it presents organizations a compelling reason to base their operations here.”

The Memphis Specialized Laboratory will be a model of “green construction” and a showcase for energy sustainability. The facility will incorporate several sustainable features and is designed to be LEED certified with natural ventilation, renewable energy, open space, and quality environments inside and out. It will minimize site impact through storm water design, heat island mitigation and light pollution reduction. The signature feature of the Research Park will be the Specialized Laboratory’s green roof—a roof that is actually covered with grass, landscaping and walkways, and built at a grade in which it serves as a large, open, multipurpose space that will be a central focal point for all the additional campus buildings. The green roof will provide an outdoor gathering space for lunchtime activities and special events. The green roof will be a visible and prominent feature of the architecture and environmental performance will be a key driver of the architectural form. Green roofs provide many advantages over traditional black or white reflective rooftops, including increased roof life span, reduced storm water runoff and lower costs for heating and cooling.

Architects on the project are Self Tucker Architects in Memphis, and Perkins+Will from Houston, a firm that has done numerous high-level laboratory projects across the country. The general contractor is Flintco LLC.