UT-Baptist Research Park

A World-Class Biomed Park Rises in the Heart of Memphis

September 24, 2010
A World-Class Biomed Park Rises in the Heart of Memphis
A World-Class Biomed Park Rises in the Heart of Memphis

Business Facilities
The Location Advisor
August 01, 2010

Bioscience already is a primary driver of the economy in Memphis, TN, with about 176 biomedical facilities employing more than 30,000. Bioscience industry growth in Memphis has been double the U.S. rate for the past decade, and one in every four new jobs in the city is bioscience-related. The city ranks as the eighth-largest medical center in the nation and is a regional hub for clinical care.

Memphis is a worldwide leader in orthopaedic and spinal implants development and orthopaedic device manufacturing, capturing an estimated 20 percent ($6.5 billion) of global orthopaedic revenues. Memphis firms represent the full life cycle of orthopaedic and medical implant product development from research to product design to clinical development to manufacturing and distribution. Major implant manufacturers include Medtronic Sofamor-Danek, Smith & Nephew Orthopaedics, and Wright Medical.

GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer and Schering-Plough also have major operations in Memphis, as do Sandvik Medical Solutions, Engineered Medical Systems (EMS), Y&W Technologies, and Onyx Medical Corporation.

Higher education biomedical programs in Memphis include the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Southern College of Optometry, University of Tennessee College of Pharmacy and the University of Memphis Department of Biomedical Engineering. Of the approximately 6,800 graduates each year, 32 percent (almost 2,200) earn bioscience-related degrees.

The city is home to Baptist Memorial Hospital, St. Francis Hospital, Methodist University Hospital, the Med, Memphis VA Hospital, Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital and the internationally recognized St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital (a $500-million per year enterprise).

The Memphis BioWorks Foundation is executing a bold plan to leverage all of these assets and organically grow the city’s booming bioscience sector. At the core of this strategy is the UT-Baptist Research Park, a 10-year, $500-million project now rising on 6.5 acres in the heart of the Memphis Medical Center, adjacent to the UT Health Science Center, the state’s primary medical school.

The park is being built on land donated by Baptist Memorial Health Care. When fully completed, it will feature 1.2 million square feet of laboratory, research, education, and business development space. The six-phase master plan envisions a research, incubator and commercial center dedicated to the bioscience industry. Six buildings with an average size of 200,000 square feet will include:

  • Regional Biocontainment Lab offering biosafety level (BSL) 2 and 3 laboratory modules
  • Cadaveric training academy and high-speed computation facilities
  • Accessible vivarium space and management of live animal studies
  • A new College of Pharmacy building at the UT Health Science Center
  • Build-to-suit lab and office space
  • Facilities for training sessions, meeting space and security

With research and laboratory space available from 1,000 to more than 100,000 square feet, the $80-million Memphis Bioworks Innovation Center Research Tower 1 will provide the flexibility to accommodate tenants of all sizes. Space can be custom-designed to fit each tenant’s initial needs and also provide for future expansion within the UT-Baptist Research Park. Ground will be broken for the Innovation Center next year; it is expected to become operational within 24-36 months. The tower is designed as laboratory “shell space” providing flexibility for a variety of future uses.

A primary component of the research park is a vivarium and laboratory facility connected to the tower and designed to support research needs for tenants. The research tower 1 footprint comprises approximately 200,000 square feet in seven floors. The initial construction of the vivarium, set to begin at the end of this year, will be approximately 40,000 square feet with the ability to expand in the future.

The UT-Baptist Park vivarium—known to researchers as the “mouse house”—will be used to test drugs on rodents prior to FDA approval for use by humans. According to Brandon M. Wellford, chief financial officer and director of real estate for Memphis BioWorks Foundation, the vivarium at UT-Baptist Park will have a commercial focus that similar facilities based at universities are lacking.

“Almost every university has a space like this, but what will make our facility unique is its ability to use the protocols that meet the FDA standards for testing,” Wellford told Business Facilities. “We have a commercial focus to this facility that universities don’t have, so we can take early-stage work that’s done in a university setting and transfer it into our facility to get a product approved for market.”

Wellford estimates that the vivarium will keep in Memphis up to $5 million per year in testing work currently going to other locations around the country. He also predicted the vivarium will become a major test site for small start-up bioscience businesses.

“Large pharmaceuticals companies can afford to own and operate their own [testing] space, but small start-up companies don’t have access to these types of facilities. One of the reasons we are building this is to support our current cluster of companies,” Wellford said. “Our plan is to provide a commercialization center so that companies that need this type of work can operate right here in our facility and have access to and work alongside primary staff in the facility to conduct their research.”

Already completed and ready to begin operations in about four weeks is the Regional Biocontainment Lab. The UT Health Science Center will operate the biocontainment facility, primarily doing research funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for the first six to nine months of operation. The work initially will be limited to NIH research so that the complex air exhaust systems at the biocontainment facility can be validated and properly balanced, Wellford said. Once the air ventilation system checks out, the facility will begin accepting contracts from industry.

The remaining phases of the plan for UT-Baptist Research Park will be executed “based on growth demand,” Wellford said.

Wellford expects this growth mainly to be “organic”—meaning primarily home-grown, instead of imported from other locations.

“Our strategy is built on organic growth,” he explained. “Everyone hopes to attract [businesses] from around the country to locate in their community, but we have an active, vibrant cluster that we feel we can grow over time, and which will fill the [Innovation Center].”

However, Memphis BioWorks also is counting on the city’s reputation as a global center for orthopaedic medicine and implants to attract start-ups from across the U.S. “We can provide all of the elements [they need] to be successful, from the capital to the labs for testing and the contract manufacturers to produce your product,” he noted.

According to the Memphis BioWorks CFO, two private venture capital funds (including a fund called Memphis Bio Ventures) have provided $75 million in funding for projects focused on orthopaedics and medical devices; Memphis BioWorks Foundation also has an organization called Innova Memphis that provides seed capital for early-stage bioscience investments.

“We’ll make investments as much as $1 million to a single entity,” Wellford said, adding that the seed funding is mainly public dollars.

Wellford said he does not expect manufacturing or distribution facilities to locate within the UT-Baptist Park because of the abundant warehouse space in Memphis. Memphis has more than 160 million square feet of warehouse space with an average size for current construction of approximately 500,000 square feet (over 11 acres) per building.

The Tennessee city on the banks of the Mississippi also is a global distribution center that is especially suited to overnight shipping of critical medical components and organic material (Memphis International Airport is the world hub of FedEx).

The diversity of biomedical university programs in Memphis is a key driver of the continued expansion of the bioscience industry in the city, Wellford said, because of the large numbers of skilled technicians emerging from post-doctorate programs.

“At any given time, there are about 200 post-docs working at

St. Jude’s,” he explained. “Post-doc positions generally are 1-2 years in length. So, at any time, we probably have about 100 people who are looking over their shoulder at the next opportunity and where they can get their next position.”

Memphis also boasts world-class medical training programs. The Medical Education and Research Institute trains an estimated 10,000 doctors per year; its students practice placing medical implants in cadavers.

According to Wellford, Memphis also has become a major center for clinical care because of its geographic location. “We are in the geographic center of the U.S. and we are a gathering spot for clinical care for a fairly large region,” he said.

[link: http://www.businessfacilities.com/articles/growing-technology-in-the-park.php]

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