Lab space has been in short supply across Maryland due to the explosive growth seen in the state’s life sciences ecosystem. The I-270 BioTech Corridor, which stretches from Northern Bethesda to Frederick, is home to more than 2,000 life science companies and federal agencies. To meet the demand for lab space and support the growth of the biopharma industry, Progress Labs has dug in and developed more than 2 million square feet of bio manufacturing ready space.
Progress Labs, one of the Matan Companies, is constructing six sites along the I-270 corridor that will provide ample space for startups and emerging companies, as well as larger existing companies, that need lab space. Matan first began to deliver on its ambitious 2 million square foot plan last year. Currently, Matan is in the process of building out three of the spaces, with plans to begin construction at the remaining sites later. In all, Matan has committed more than 200 acres of zoned land to make Progress Labs a reality. James Matan, president of Progress Labs, explained that the company wanted to support the continued growth of the life sciences ecosystem in Maryland through the construction of these sites.
“When our area loses out, it typically loses out to a place like RTP (Research Triangle Park in North Carolina) because they have buildings that are ready and available,” Matan said. “RTP has been ahead of the curve for lab space availability. We wanted to provide space that will be ready with the necessary infrastructure. This is a designed approach that is solving a real estate problem in Maryland.”
In order to meet the demand for lab space in Maryland, Progress Labs is building sites in Rockville, Gaithersburg, Germantown and Frederick. Typically, when it comes to providing lab space, Matan said the offerings are typically a converted office building. But, he noted that approach often has drawbacks or even limitations for biotech companies. Instead, Progress Labs is taking a ground-up type of approach, building speculative, state-of-the-art sites that will be able to accommodate a wide range of life sciences companies.
One of the first clients Progress Labs secured for its Center 84 location in Frederick was Australia-based Ellume, a digital diagnostics company that secured a toehold in Maryland last year, its first in the U.S. In March, Ellume celebrated the grand opening of its new space. Matan said Progress Labs was excited by the presence of the company that manufactures at-home COVID-19 tests.
“We landed Ellume because we had the building ready. If we didn’t have that kind of space, Ellume may have gone elsewhere,” Matan said.
In order to meet the increasing demand for lab space, Matan said it’s important to have the spaces “up and ready and flexible.” And, for Matan, it was equally important to make sure that these kinds of spaces are available in Maryland.
“This is our home base. The Bethesda to Frederick alley is where we’ve done the bulk of our work,” Matan said.
He touted a number of amenities the area has that makes it such an attractive space for life sciences companies, including connectivity to the outside world via proximity to major airports and the highway system. He also pointed out the proximity to capital, as well as the numerous government agencies that populate the area. Matan noted that Maryland has a strong and vibrant workforce that is attractive to employers.
Matan also touted the efforts from state and local leaders for their workforce efforts. Pointing to the Department of Commerce, as well as economic developers in Frederick County, where he lives, Matan said those agencies are committed to doing what they can to support the life sciences industry.
Matan is no stranger to delivering high quality sites. The company is responsible for several biotech facilities along I-270, including the 320,000 square foot NCI Frederick National Lab, as well as the 120,000 square foot U.S. Vaccine Pilot Plant.