A $ 365 million development will expand the life sciences hub at Pinnovation Works

Pennovation Works, the 23-acre property of the University of Pennsylvania, just across the Schuylkill River from the main campus, has long been a place of innovation. Home to a ferry business in the 18th century, a paint company in the 19th century, and a DuPont chemical research facility for much of the 20th century, the space underwent further transformation in 2016 with the institution of the Pinnovation Center, an incubator of science and technology startups, many of which originate within the University. Last year, the 65,000-square-foot Pinnovation Lab opened, offering larger lab space for companies that are outpacing their previous locations.

Now the next phase of revisiting this site is about to begin.

Under a 75-year lease, Longfellow Real Estate Partners will develop, finance and operate a 45,000-square-foot life science facility along 34th Street and Grays Ferry Avenue. The building will encompass approximately 387,000 square feet dedicated to biological research and development and 68,000 square feet for bioproduction. Construction of the building, designed by Jacobs architecture firm to visually integrate with existing Pnovation Works campus facilities, is expected to begin next year, with opening scheduled for 2025.

By integrating into Pinnovation Works ‘existing campus and infrastructure, Longfellow Real Estate Partners’ development aims to foster the site and city innovation ecosystem. (Image: Longfellow Real Estate Partners)

With the thriving cell and gene therapy programs at Penn, as well as the successes and future promise of mRNA as a therapeutic, the bioproduction laboratory and facilities will offer the opportunity for biotech companies to stay in Philadelphia, adjacent to the Penn campus. , as they expand.

To learn more about the project, the evolution of Pinnovation Works and the growing life sciences ecosystem in Philadelphia, Penn today spoke to Craig Carnaroli, Penn’s senior executive vice president. Carnaroli was Vice President of Finance from 2000 to 2004 and has been Executive Vice President since 2004. He has shaped the campus extensively in this role, including Pinnovation Works since it was acquired in 2010.

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

Penn has been involved in that 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 start we’ve seen a nice mix and diversity of tenants, all from engineering. The school’s GRASP Robotics Lab at work that Dr. Henry Daniell is doing with administering drugs through the plants and, of course, the odor-detecting canines of the Working Dog Center.

The investment we made in the Pinnovation Center provided a springboard for entrepreneurs and young businesses. But we also saw that the space needed to grow further, so we added the renovation of the Pnovation Lab building. This provided the necessary growth space for young companies.

Why is now the right time for this construction phase of Pinnovation Works?

There are a couple of dynamics at play. With some of the successes we’ve seen in medical school, particularly in the cell and gene therapy space, there’s a growing number of startup companies coming out of Penn and an increased demand for lab space. And since more tenants have entered, they wonder: If I don’t see my growing space here, will I have to move elsewhere?

Let’s say you start in a workshop in the Pinnovation Center with 1,000 square feet and want to expand to a 2,000 or 4,000 square foot facility. You can look to the Pinnovation Lab building for that. But what happens when you need 10,000 square feet? We are showing people their potential trajectory. This is partly what is driving this project.

And why is Pnovation Works, and Philadelphia more generally, the right place for this type of development?

As for Pinnovation Works, we have always had a long-term view of how the site could evolve and the real estate facilities and services have developed a master plan. This is in line with that initial view.

Looking at the city, what you are seeing throughout Philadelphia now is that there is no shortage of projects that are looking to expand, especially in this science and technology sector, be it Schuylkill Yards, University City Science Center or Navy Yard. Pinnovation Works’ proximity to the entire Penn Medicine complex, as well as Penn Engineering and other schools, is a huge plus. And because it’s owned by Penn, we can be a little more flexible with Penn tenants.

Penn invested capital in the acquisition and initial development of the site and now, having an entity like Longfellow capitalized and willing to take the next step is an affirmation of the investment we have made and the success of it. It is beautiful to see. It’s no different than what happened on campus. Penn has stimulated the market, with things like the Inn at Penn and the 40th Street corridor, and this has led to other developments and activities in and around Penn.

Rendering depicting an aerial view of the new life sciences building on the Pnovation Works campus

The new building will provide significant growth space for the expansion of cell and gene therapy companies, conveniently adjacent to the Penn campus. (Image: Longfellow Real Estate Partners)

The term innovation ecosystem is used to describe how sites like this can invigorate the people and companies who study and work there. How do you see this development contributing and promoting the city’s innovation ecosystem?

We have seen the demand from our companies, particularly regarding the need for this manufacturing space for cell and gene therapy. Offering it here, we think, will be important in helping us keep these companies in the region and keep our faculty doing that job in Philadelphia.

Penn is a positive economic multiplier in the city in general. We see this space as the next, natural evolution of this campus to support more University spin-off activities. As soon as we built the Pnovation Lab space, it was absorbed, even during COVID. He is now almost fully engaged.

This project is helping us to be proactive rather than reactive. When a company needs its space and has its funding, it doesn’t want to wait for something to be built. Here, that grow space will be readily available.

How will this benefit the Penn community?

Our hope is that as faculty spin-out companies grow, these facilities will become an option for them, keeping their jobs close to campus. Hopefully, it also creates opportunities for our postdocs and PhD students. students. Those interested in continuing their work in this type of space can see that they can pursue their careers here, in a thriving ecosystem in Philadelphia, and not feel compelled to relocate. It’s a way to create density and stickiness in the innovation work that is coming out of Penn.

Is this just the beginning in terms of attracting private sector development to this life science hub?

There are certainly future phases in the masterplan. This is our first land-based rental development, so we want it to be successful before we think about the next one. But perhaps the science could evolve rapidly and prompt us to think about the next step sooner than expected. One of the interesting features of this development is the bioproduction space. For years, our colleagues at Penn Medicine have advised us on the need for an affordable bioproduction space to support Penn’s startup cell and gene therapy companies. It is exciting to see this aspiration take a step closer to realization.

It seems fitting that a hub for 21st century life science entrepreneurship is developing at this site, where a previous era of innovation took place, with DuPont and other earlier uses of space.

It is a great symbol of the transformation of the industrial economy into the knowledge economy. You have a site that once supported paint research and manufacturing, now supports 21st century activities on innovation in science. You have research on canine odor detection, robotics, plant-grown biopharmaceuticals, all symbols of the evolution of innovation and showing what universities can do to contribute to society.

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