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Workforce Trends, Economy, & More: Q&A With Alexandria’s Joel Marcus

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to ramp down, and that’s not because they want to just drive interest rates radically higher, it’s that they want to have some financial wherewithal to move rates down when they need to. But it really is defying the rest of the world—so the Fed seems to be at loggerheads with the general economy.

So from the macro perspective, that’s kind of where we are. I think we’ll continue to see broadly low rates out there, and, hopefully, there will be a continuing abundance of risk capital that will invest in both the life-science and energy industries. So I remain cautiously optimistic, although I think the political side of the spectrum is always sub-par. Unless we get a more clever approach to taxation, to spending, to the budget, and so forth, I don’t see much change in this very slow-growth environment. I mean, it honestly doesn’t matter, actually, who the President is, because Congress can ultimately incentivize—do a one-time tax for companies who have oversees cash and bring back, probably, several trillion dollars of cash to invest in the U.S., in infrastructure, plant equipment, people. But Congress is struggling to come together and do so. I’m pretty negative on the political environment these days, but I’m hopeful the entrepreneurship of the U.S. will outdistance these challenges we’re seeing today.

X: What are you seeing in the life-sciences in particular?

JM: We continue to make amazing innovations that are not incremental. There are roughly 10,000 diseases out there, 500 of which have really been addressed by industry, so we’re in the early innings as far as overcoming and conquering disease—trying to prevent it, treat it, and ultimately cure it. So the best days of innovation are ahead. The watchword is, hopefully, the government doesn’t disrupt this momentum. Hopefully, we can come to a reasonable, value-based pricing system that will make sense for everybody. I think that’s also very, very crucial.

X: You’re known as a builder of life science space. But it seems like you’re doing more lately in tech. For instance, you have a big deal ongoing to build Uber’s new headquarters. How did that come about?

JM: We’re life-science-focused, and we haven’t diversified into tech actually, [although] our tech experience goes back to Google, when we did their first campus—when they were private. But we’ve always focused on our urban campuses in these AAA scientific locations. Today, we find tech is much more aggressive in getting into these locations. Recently IBM Watson came to us in Cambridge and Uber, Stripe, and Pinterest came to us in Mission Bay and SoMa. We didn’t go after any of those companies—they came after us because of our urban campus locations.

X: You mentioned LaunchLabs earlier. It’s gearing up in New York. Can you describe what that is and what led to it?

JM: We believe that in each of our markets we should be addressing the needs of all companies across our ecosystems, from very early formation stage, seed-stage companies, to the mega international giants. More recently, we noticed—in Maryland actually, where we first started a LaunchLabs model in partnership with Biohealth Innovation, which is the cluster’s major catalytic organization for early-stage companies, and then in New York City—that there was an under-served market for companies that were just getting started in their business planning and scientific discovery work. These companies need small, very affordable space, and we felt that addressing this need was, and still is, one of the most important things that we can do to support company growth in the industry.

Our LaunchLabs in New York City can accommodate something on the order of a dozen to two dozen different entities that could run from a small cadre of employees to more than a dozen. But it’s really for pre-venture startups spinning out of institutions that also—on top of affordable space—need the guidance of seed-stage funding, mentorship, and business development programming, and we’re already in due diligence on a number of promising entrepreneurs who have applied. This new startup platform really offers the New York City life science community … Next Page »

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