FastForward 1812 Providing Startups Much Needed Space, Resources
Innovative solutions to wound care, technologies to relieve a strained health care system, a pill that could reverse type 2 diabetes. The path to developing and bringing these and other discoveries and innovations to market runs through the FastForward 1812 innovation hub.
Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures opened the 23,000-square-foot flagship space shortly after New Year’s Day. The first tenants began occupying office and co-working spaces the third week of January, and lab tenants will move in March 1. Startups have leased much of the available space already, and what remains has been strategically left empty to accommodate growth among the 18 startup tenants and the arrival of new startups.
“There’s high-demand in Baltimore, especially around Johns Hopkins, for affordable space and access to lab space and equipment,” says FastForward Director Brian Stansky, noting that JHTV operates two other FastForward innovation hubs in Baltimore.
“We designed FastForward 1812 with startups in mind. We want to ensure the talented innovators and entrepreneurs within Johns Hopkins and around the city have everything they need to grow their startups and bring positive change to the world.”
FastForward 1812 occupies two floors of the 1812 Ashland building that sits on the Johns Hopkins medical campus in the burgeoning Eager Park neighborhood. The top floor features an open-concept layout with offices, meeting rooms, communal workspaces and kitchen.
Downstairs, the innovation hub boasts 15,000-square-feet of lab space with private BSL2 wet labs as well as BSL2 wet lab benches in a shared space; cell culture, microscopy and cold storage rooms; shared scientific instruments and a full-time lab manager.
Having a complete lab and accessible equipment is essential for startups in the biomedical space. Laura Dickinson, director of research and development at Gemstone Biotherapeutics, says the further development of its wound healing technology requires biosafety cabinets, incubators, a chemical fume hood and other pricey pieces of lab equipment.
“[FastForward] offers startups the opportunity to focus on what they need to do as opposed to making their own lab space,” says Dickinson, noting they will move from FastForward East to FastForward 1812. “It would be extremely cost prohibitive as a startup company to get a lab like one that FastForward provides. It has all the equipment we need to progress our research forward.”
Aside from the dedicated wet lab, Dickinson says Gemstone benefits from FastForward’s core resources, support and connections. This includes facilitating meetings with the FDA and providing guidance through its startup journey.
Brian Halak, CEO of WindMIL Therapeutics, a startup developing cell therapies for oncology indications, echoed Dickinson’s sentiments. WindMil began leasing office and lab space from FastForward East in May 2016 because of its turnkey nature.
“FastForward allowed us to get up and running quickly,” Halak says. “It has the infrastructure that allows a brand new company like ours to work on the things that will generate value without worrying about vital, but less directly value-generating activities like finding office space, ordering lab equipment and the like.”
When presented with an opportunity to move across Ashland Avenue to FastForward 1812, Halak jumped at the chance, citing the new innovation hub’s layout.
“The new space is more connected. With the offices on the first floor and the labs on the lower level, it’s just one open staircase that divides the two,” Halak says. “FastForward 1812 is a better, more integrated, thoughtfully-designed version of the benefits we had at FastForward East.”
The space, services and funding opportunities that FastForward provides aim not only to accelerate the development of startups but also to keep them in the city. Since 2012, startups based on Johns Hopkins technology have raised more than $1.1 billion in funding. However, 85 percent of that funding went to build those startups in other states. FastForward aims to change that story, and in so doing, play a role in revitalizing Baltimore’s economy.
“The FastForward ecosystem we have cultivated over the past four years has helped bring life-changing innovations to market,” Stansky says. “FastForward 1812 is a continuation of our efforts to help startups become successful businesses and establish roots in Baltimore.”