Say laboratory to many people and it perhaps brings back memories of botched experiments from distant school days or crazed professors in films working on novel projects. However, with the coronavirus pandemic having dominated the news for almost the last two years, laboratories are very much front of mind at present. Against this background, we were interested in a new report by CBRE out this week showing that while US office vacancy rates are at 17%, lab vacancies are just 5%, the lowest on record.
Read the detail and it’s apparent that while the pandemic has undoubtedly been a catalysing factor, the amount of venture capital flowing into life sciences has grown roughly twofold since 2019 and is now equivalent to an annualised rate of over $30bn. As we highlighted in our recent thematic outlook piece, medical knowledge is currently doubling every 73 days, a markedly faster pace than a decade prior, when the comparable figure was 3.5 years (per ASCO). Innovation is occurring across the spectrum, but particularly in respect of novel treatments and gene therapies, per the report.
It is also interesting to note that biotech job openings are currently outpacing even those in the tech sector and are currently running at their highest level ever (per the Bureau of Labour Statistics). The Boston area is apparently the hottest place in the US for demand, followed by San Francisco and New York.
A related story that caught our eye over the past week suggest that living ‘robots’ made in a lab have found a new way to replicate. The founding principle is based around that of a xenobot. This can best be thought of as a programmable organism that is created by assembling cells in a petri dish in a not dissimilar fashion to how Lego blocks may be put together. The xenobots used for this study (a collaboration between a team from Tufts, Harvard and Vermont Universities) were made of cells taken from the African clawed frog. No modification occurs, according to the researchers; cells are simply combined in different arrangements to produce the xenobots. While they have no brain or digestive system, they can be effectively programmed by researchers (using a process call kinematic self-replication) to corral other cells, hence the analogy with robots. While still early days, the potential for applying these findings, particularly in the field of regenerative medicine, is significant. At the least, it means more likely demand for already-scarce lab space.
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