News / Science & Technology

NYC Invests Heavily In Biotech Development

Bernard Shusman
New York City and the State of New York are investing hundreds of millions of dollars to become a major player in the development of high tech industries. They have developed a concept called incubators - providing fully-equipped, subsidized workspaces for qualified start-up companies.  There are approximately 40 incubator projects across New York State.  

Harlem Biospace is the first city-backed incubator facility for biomedical engineering.  It gives young entrepreneurs a relatively low-cost way to develop their ideas and businesses.  A low monthly fee provides them with desk space and laboratory facilities. They pay for their own raw materials.

“This is great.  The reason is because it is so cheap and it has the wet lab that we need. So, I order chemicals that I need, and I’m given the facilities here to do my experiments," said Tyler Poore.

Tyler Poore and his partner are developing a product that will kill bacteria forever.  It can be applied to household items, like a sponge, or to anything that needs to be bacteria-free.   His goal and that of the 17 others at Biospace is to find solutions to biomedical problems.
 
Edwin Vazquez is looking to unlock the mystery of diseases, such as Alzheimers and Parkinson’s.  He says feedback from others in the building makes the work environment at Biospace a real plus.

“There’s nothing better than sitting down in a room like this when there is a lot more people around and got something that is exciting and go to the lunchroom and you start talking to your other colleagues.  All of a sudden, somebody knows a researcher that is doing something similar to you who can complement your research, you get in contact and things happen," said Vasquez.

Leading hospitals and science centers are supporting innovators like Kate Rochlin, founder of a company called Immunovent.  She has developed a new allergy diagnostic which uses a brush applied to the nose or mouth instead of a needle.

“it’s actually as accurate, or even more accurate, than skin or blood testing, and from one single sample from the nose or mouth we can test for a whole panel of 72 allergens," said Rochlin.

“We found that the blood test only identified peanut allergies 50 percent of the time, and [we] could find it 99 percent of the time.  So, we are far more accurate with peanut diagnosis. That’s really important because that one in particular is really life-threatening," she said.

Six hundred thousand dollars from the city of New York got this project underway.  According to Biospace Executive Director Matthew Owens, there have been real signs of success since last November’s start.   

“We do have companies that are already shipping, getting revenue and getting products out to customers.   So, I think it’s a testament that it’s absolutely a success," said Owens.

The primary goal of an incubator is to develop a business that can operate independently  and become financially viable. The Harlem Biospace incubator with its cutting edge research is offering that opportunity.      


VOA's Daniela Schrier contributed to this story.

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