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Spokane, WA, December 13, 2022 — If you perform a Google Maps search for “wet lab near me” the map zooms out to reveal several red pins along the west coast, with just two representing Seattle, Wash., and Portland, Ore. That search refined to “equipped wet lab near me” further narrows the results for life science startup founders seeking to test their innovations.

“Fee-for-service specialty laboratory resources have recently become available through WSU Spokane, to the benefit of many,” Michaele Armstrong, co-founder and associate director of SP3NW, Washington State University’s (WSU) Business Incubator, said. “However, the need for equipped wet lab space as an operational base for startups still exists.”

Life science startups working to discover new chemicals, biological materials, or drugs need infrastructure like leasable wet lab space to thrive, confirms Andy Johnston, founder of Johnston Engineering and chair of the Evergreen BioScience Innovation committee for a physical innovation space.

“Many new startups only need office space, but life science startups have different requirements,” Johnston said. When those needs haven’t been met, startups often relocate away from the area, taking with them the potential for economic benefit to Spokane.

When launched in December 2020, SP3NW identified addressing wet lab scarcity as a core aim.  After nearly two years of SP3NW’s diligent efforts to secure funds, space, and equipment, the Health Sciences and Services Authority (HSSA) has awarded the incubator $65,000. The award is given in conjunction with one-to-one matching funds from WSU Real Estate and Business Operations (REBO).

On the HSSA board’s decision to award SP3NW the funds, Susan Ashe, executive director, said, “HSSA has a vested interest in supporting infrastructure to accelerate Spokane’s health sciences research capacity.”  

With those funds, SP3NW will equip a 563-square-foot wet lab in the WSU Spokane Innovation Center with incubators, microscopes, a wet bath, shaker plates, a filtered fume hood, centrifuges, and other standard equipment for a BSL1 wet lab.

“A well-equipped wet lab offers startups the opportunity to de-risk tech and develop a proof of concept. Start-ups are then prepared to pitch to investors or to apply to HSSA for a matching grant,” Ashe said.

The funding amount needed to equip the incubator’s wet lab highlights the financial burden placed upon startups to procure their own equipment and lease space. Armstrong points out that, rather than diverting limited capital from other aspects of their business, the lab space extends startups’ financial runways.

The wet lab will support two startups through membership with SP3NW. SP3NW projects the wet lab to be available for wet lab membership holders’ use by the spring of 2023. Interested parties may contact SP3NW by email at info@SP3NW.org or through its website contact form.

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SP3NW is WSU’s Business Incubator for scalable startups. SP3NW supports the launch of businesses by providing physical office and wet lab spaces, educational and experiential programming, executive advisement, and access to resources and advisors from across the University District campus.

SP3NW’s website: https://sp3nw.org

SP3NW’s contact form: https://sp3nw.org/contact

Jessy

Jessy has managed SP3NW's digital and print communications and outreach since December 2021. She took on meeting the communication needs of the spinoff initiative Evergreen BioScience Innovation in September 2022. She is also earning her Master's in Strategic Communication from Washington State University.

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