More than 250 guests celebrated the grand opening of UC Berkeley’s Bakar BioEnginuity Hub at Woo Hon Fai Hall on May 3.
The new hub is a life-science-focused innovation center that is working to connect campus and society, according to Bakar Labs spokesperson Kaspar Mossman. It is a for-profit incubator where students, faculty and outside entrepreneurs can collaborate to create new biotechnologies, Mossman added.
“We’re trying to have a vibrant culture where people mix and inspire each other and share ideas and as a result we have partnerships with law firms, with large companies and increasingly within semesters,” Mossman said. “We will be holding events at the hub where students and faculty can come and be part of these mixing points.”
The Bakar BioEnginuity Hub’s location was formerly home to the Berkeley Art Museum, according to campus spokesperson Elizabeth Costello. She noted that the facility has been updated and preserved to house a transparent glass addition and 40,000 square feet of lab and office space, which has the capacity to accommodate 50 startup companies.
Additionally, a five-tiered structured ramp was re-sloped and a freight elevator was converted in order to make the hub accessible to all individuals, Costello added.
“It’s stunning that Berkeley is really taking the lead in helping to push forward what it means to be a societal serving research university in the 21st century,” said Amy Herr, founding director of the Bakar BioEnginuity Hub. “Not waiting for our discoveries and inventions to be picked up by industry through licensing … but instead empowering researchers on our campus to bring those ideas into solutions.”
The hub will primarily focus on life science innovations, including gene and cell therapy, food technology for meat alternatives and new approaches to agricultural crop production, Costello said.
She added that opportunities will arise from the hub for campus graduate and undergraduate students seeking fellowships and summer internships.
“When I was a student at Cal, there were no opportunities for students to follow their passion in entrepreneurship or biotech, as an intern or a founder,” said managing director of Bakar Labs Gino Segrè in an email. “With the opening of the Bakar BioEnginuity Hub all of that is now available.”
Campus has been working with QB3, an innovation institute, for the past five years to help design and construct the lab facility, according to David Schaffer, current director of the Bakar BioEnginuity Hub and Bakar Labs.
The hub has been operating for about six months and currently houses seventeen companies, according to Mossman.
“The magic here is really just welcoming people from across the campus, whether they’re in engineering, or chemistry, or molecular cell biology, or humanities and social sciences,” Herr said. “Our campus is a beacon for those fearless and bold people.”