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Meet Llewellyn Cox of Lab Launch in Monrovia and Chatsworth

Today we’d like to introduce you to Llewellyn Cox.

Llewellyn, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
Lab Launch was originally born in 2014, when a group of young scientists and entrepreneurs began meeting to address the challenges that startups in biosciences were facing in the LA area – causing many of the groundbreaking technologies developed at UCLA, USC, Caltech, et al, to leave the area and form companies in other areas, primarily San Francisco and Boston.

We realized that the first and biggest impediment to scientists looking to start a company in the LA area was a severe shortage of affordable, accessible lab space to begin their commercial research. We founded Lab Launch as a non-profit to develop and operate shared coworking labs (think WeWork for science!) where companies could start up, share overhead costs and move their ideas forward locally. We provide a full-service environment where many operational and compliance services are included, allowing startups to focus on their research and product development.

We opened our first facility in Monrovia in 2015, which currently houses around 10 startups, and opened our second space in at ToolboxLA in Chastworth in late 2017. In the years ahead, we aim to create opportunities for entrepreneurs and scientists all across LA with affordable, accessible spaces all across the region.

Has it been a smooth road?
Not at all! Starting a new business is always challenging – as we are here to help our resident startups navigate.

We faced a lot of challenges to building Lab Launch – we had no funding to start with and grants are rare for this sort of project. Additionally, many in our industry doubted that LA was a fertile environment for biotech startups; despite the incontestable talent and productivity of researchers at our universities – there has been a reductive culture that everything revolves around Boston/San Fran, despite both cities obvious drawbacks for young companies.

In the end, we were able to get up and running through the generosity of founders and volunteers, together with some small grants from local authorities and a very patient and supportive landlord. We have learned it really does take a village and the growing environment we enjoy today is the result of many people’s support, belief and help during our early days on this journey.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Lab Launch story. Tell us more about the business.
At Lab Launch, we provide affordable, accessible lab space to startups and small businesses in biotechnology. We accept all types from companies, from next-gen cancer treatments, to diagnostics, to plant biology – our goal is simply to provide a supportive environment for all the life science companies that want to start up in LA.

What differentiates Lab Launch from our competitors in other cities reflects our journey – we have had to build our ecosystem from the ground up, rather than on the backs of patron venture capital or industry backers. As a result, we have found various ways to deliver high-quality research labs at a fraction of the cost than is typical of SF or Boston. Through a combination of adaptive reuse of existing buildings, to lean operations and cloud -based management tools, we have cut the cost of building and running labs significantly and pass this on directly to our resident companies.

One of the most important things we provide at Lab Launch – and one that differentiates us from our more expensive competition in other cities – is all-inclusive, full-service lab management. Our user fees are straightforward and include all of our provided services in a simple monthly charge. In addition to their lab bench and office desk space, our residents enjoy fridge and freezer storage space, access to a full suite of shared common lab equipment, essential consumables like ultra pure water, high-speed internet access and full-service waste management for trash, biohazardous and chemical waste.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
The next 10 years will be transformative as the bioscience revolution increasingly disrupts numerous industries.

On top of the innovation already happening in medical technologies, life itself is increasingly becoming the leading technology for clean, healthy, and sustainable manufacturing; whether using yeast to make spider-free silk or plants to create the chemicals we need for fuel and industry or fungus to make cow-free leather, the use of living factories to make the products we need is the key to a more sustainable, less polluting and more efficient future.

Within 50 years, almost everything that we now manufacture with fossil fuel-derived chemicals will be made by living factories. This revolution is already here, and we believe that LA has both the opportunity and the talent to become its capital.

As these technologies increasingly displace heavy industry and fossil fuels, new jobs and opportunities will be created to support them and we look forward to the creation of many well-paying, hard-to-automate jobs for people across LA.

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