A $ 365 million development will expand Pennovation Works ’life sciences center

Pennovation Works, a 23-acre property owned by the University of Pennsylvania on the Schuylkill River from the main campus, has long been a center of innovation. 19th century headquarters of a ferry business. a painting company in the 20th century. For much of the 20th century a DuPont chemical research facility, the space underwent another transformation in 2016, when the Pennovation Center was created, the incubator. science and technology startups, many of which originate at the University. Last year, the 65,000-square-foot Pennovation Lab was opened, offering larger laboratory space to companies growing in previous locations.

Now the next phase of re-imagining this site will begin.

With a 75-year lease of land, Longfellow Real Estate Partners will develop, fund and operate a 455,000-square-foot life sciences facility on 34th Street and Grays Ferry Avenue. The building will have approximately 387,000 square feet for biological research and development and 68,000 square feet for biomanufacturing. Construction of the building, to visually integrate with the structures of the Pennovation Works campus designed by the Jacobs architecture firm, is scheduled to begin next year, with a planned opening for 2025.

Integrated into the campus and infrastructure at Pennovation Works, Longfellow Real Estate Partners development is about promoting the site and the city’s innovation ecosystem. (Image: Longfellow Real Estate Partners)

With Penn’s prolific cell and gene therapy programs, as well as mRNA’s success and therapeutic promise for the future, labs and biofabrication facilities will provide an opportunity for biotechnology companies to continue expanding in Philadelphia, next to Penn’s campus. .

To learn more about the project, the evolution of Pennovation Works, and the growing ecosystem of life sciences in Philadelphia, Penn Today Craig Carnaroli spoke with Penn’s vice president. Carnaroli served as Vice President of Finance from 2000 to 2004 and has been Executive Vice President since 2004. The campus has been adapting extensively to this role, including Pennovation Works, since it was acquired in 2010.

The transformation of the Pennovation Works site has been striking in recent years. Can you share some of the highlights of what happened there?

Penn has been involved in this space for more than a decade, but it’s only been six years since we celebrated the opening of the Pennovation Center in 2016. From the beginning we saw a nice mix and diversity of tenants, all from engineering. Dr. Henry Daniell’s work on plant medicine in plant GRASP Lab robotics, and of course the dogs at the Working Dog Center.

Our investment in the Pennovation Center has given a boost to entrepreneurs and young businesses. But we also saw the need to grow more space, so we added the renovation of the Pennovation Lab building. This has provided the necessary space for young companies to grow.

Why is now the right time to build Pennovation Works?

There are a couple of dynamics at play. With some of the successes we have seen in medical school, especially in the field of cell and gene therapy, the number of companies starting at Penn has increased and the demand for laboratory space has increased. And as more tenants come in, they’re wondering, if I don’t see my breeding space here, will I have to go somewhere else?

Say you start in a 1,000-square-foot Pennovation Center lab and want to expand to a 2,000- or 4,000-square-foot facility. You can look at the Pennovation Lab building for that. But what happens when you need 10,000 square feet? We’re showing people his potential trajectory. That is, in part, what drives this project.

And why is Pennovation Works — and, more broadly, Philadelphia — the right space for this kind of development?

As for Pennovation Works, we’ve always had a long-term view of how the site could evolve, and Facilities and Real Estate Services developed a master plan. This is in line with this initial view.

Looking at the city, what you are now seeing all over Philadelphia is that there is no shortage of projects that they want to expand, especially in this science and technology sector, be it Schuylkill Yards, University City Science Center or Navy Yard. . Pennovation Works with the entire Penn Medicine complex, as well as Penn Engineering and other schools, is a tremendous asset. And since it’s owned by Penn, we can be a little more flexible with Pen’s tenants.

Penn put capital into the purchase and initial development of the site, and now that an entity like Longfellow is capitalized and ready to take the next step, it is a confirmation of the investment and success we have made. It’s nice to see. It’s not like what happened around campus. Penn stimulated the market with things like the Inn at Penn and 40th Street Corridor, which led to other developments and activities in and around Penn.

A rendering depicting an aerial view of the new science building on the Pennovation Works campus

The new building will provide ample growth space for cell and gene therapy companies to expand, next to Penn’s campus. (Image: Longfellow Real Estate Partners)

The term innovation ecosystem is used to describe how people and companies who study and work there can energize such sites. How do you see this development helping and fostering innovation in the urban ecosystem?

We have seen demand from our companies, especially around the need for this manufacturing site for cell and gene therapy. We believe it will be important to offer here to help keep these companies in the region and our faculty in Philadelphia doing the work they are doing.

Penn is generally a positive economic multiplier in the city. We see this space as the next natural evolution of this campus to support more of the University’s spin-off activities. As soon as the Pennovation Lab space was built, it was absorbed, even during the time of COVID. Now he is almost completely committed.

This project helps us to be more proactive than reactive. When a company needs its space and has its own financing, it doesn’t want to wait until something is built. Here, this growth space will be readily available.

What benefits will this bring to the Penn community?

Our hope is that as the faculty spinout companies grow, these facilities will be an opportunity for them to keep their work close to campus. Fortunately, it also creates opportunities for our postdoctoral and doctoral degrees. students. Those interested in continuing to work in this type of space can see that they can pursue a career here, in a thriving Philadelphia ecosystem, and have not felt the need to relocate. It’s a way to build the density and stickiness of the innovation work coming out of Penn.

Is it just a start to attract private sector development to this life sciences site?

There are certainly future phases in the Master Plan. This is the first development of our land lease, so we want this to be successful before we think about the next one. But maybe science can evolve quickly and lead us to think about the next step sooner than expected. One of the nice features of this development is the biomanufacturing space. For many years, colleagues at Penn Medicine have advised us on the need for a cheap biomanufacturing space to help Penn start cell and gene therapy companies. It is exciting to see them take a step closer to realizing this goal.

It seems appropriate that this site be developing a space for 21st century life science entrepreneurship, where a previous era of innovation was played out, along with DuPont and other earlier uses of space.

Industrial economics is an excellent symbol of the transformation of the knowledge economy. Once upon a time there was a site that supported the research and manufacture of paintings, now the 21st century of science innovation. You can find dog odor research, robotics, plant-grown biopharmaceuticals, which symbolize the evolution of innovation and show what universities can do to contribute to society.

Leave a Comment