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

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something they’ve never had, so that’s why we call it LaunchLabs, and we’ll probably extend LaunchLabs to Seattle and San Diego as well.

Similarly, we pioneered the Science Hotel—an offering for growth-stage companies, who would have graduated from a LaunchLabs concept—up in Cambridge, in 2003, and brought that to Mission Bay in San Francisco in 2007. We just think it’s important to be, not just a real estate company that can lease space, but a real sophisticated company that can lease all kinds of space, underwrite all kinds of innovative tenants, and really nurture and help grow and fund the ecosystem in a dramatic way.

X: Let’s talk about the Accelerator Corp., which is an early-stage venture fund for companies a step farther along than those in LaunchLabs, but before those in the Science Hotel.

JM: I helped start the Accelerator Corp. back in 2003 in Seattle with ARCH [Venture Partners] and Lee [Leroy] Hood, co-founder of the Institute for Systems Biology and one of the top biologists in the world. We went through a couple of rounds, went through a CEO change and emerged with a dual-site platform extending from Seattle to New York City in mid-2014. We raised over $60 million between ourselves led by ARCH—along with a number of other venture firms and four strategic partners, including AbbVie, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and Lilly. We felt that this was a very much-needed platform that would bring a single management team, readily available capital that could be applied immediately so companies could avoid going on the road for funding, fully equipped lab/office space, and so forth—a disciplined approach to company growth. We topped the funding off over the last year, and have already done two deals in New York—Petra Pharma at $48 million, where Accelerator funded part and our partners funded the remainder, if you will, a side car investment for the rest. Petra, targeting treatments for a range of cancers and metabolic diseases, is based out of Lewis Cantley’s lab at Weill Cornell Medical College and on the work of Boston’s Nathanael Gray of Harvard and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. And then we launched a company called Lodo Therapeutics, which came out of the work of Rockefeller University’s Sean Brady—a really, really great opportunity to do work in the anti-infective area.

Gym at The Alexandria at Torrey Pines, San Diego

Gym at The Alexandria at Torrey Pines, San Diego

X: You launched another type of accelerator earlier this year in North Carolina—called the AgTech Accelerator. What was behind that?

JM: We really incubated the idea back in 2012-2013, because we noticed a big transformation of the Research Triangle Park cluster from a pharma-bio market to much more of an agtech market. Glaxo started to exit that market and thin down quite a bit, and a number of venture funds had gone out of business. And suddenly Monsanto was moving in, Syngenta was moving in, Bayer was moving in, Novozymes was moving in—a number of the big multinational ag companies were moving in, plus a number of really hot ag startups.

And so we spent some time trying to put together a plan and ultimately had to recruit a management team, and then brought funding to bear to create a new company formation engine in the agtech area. No one had ever done it quite like this with seven top-tier venture partners and two strategics. We closed on our first round of about $10 million back in May, and we’ll be topping that out over the next 60 days—probably doubling that amount up to about $20 million and bringing in a number of new investors, plus a major new agtech strategic. That again, is very much like the Seattle-New York [Accelerator Corp.] operation—single management team moving very high-quality opportunities into company formation and really jumpstarting those.

X: Is there something behind it that speaks to a bigger trend?

JM: We think that probably the single most important challenge besides human health is human nutrition. And we felt that by at least starting this agtech accelerator, this would be one big step we could make to helping bring early-stage, risk capital to the area in a way that had never been done before. We’ve got about a million square feet in the Triangle, and are landlord to all the major agtech firms down there, so we felt that it was incumbent upon us to bring … Next Page »

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