It’s no secret that wet lab space is hard to come by in Seattle. Small biotech companies often struggle to find appropriate facilities, and retrofitting existing buildings can be incredibly expensive.
Nohla Therapeutics has been living that struggle for a year: the small biotech company, spun out of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, originally set up shop in a biotech incubator space a year ago. Chris Shellooe, the company’s senior scientist, said they actually had two labs: one for the science itself, and another for administrative offices.
Despite huge early successes, including capping $65 million in funding in under a year, the company wasn’t able to move into a new home until a few months ago. Their new office, in Seattle’s Eastlake neighborhood, has a large lab space and real offices for the admin staff.
The new office was officially opened yesterday with a ribbon cutting ceremony, featuring a guest appearance by Gov. Jay Inslee, who has been a strong advocate of Washington’s life science industry.
“What you’re doing here is the best of Washington state. You know, I’ve got the best job in the state of Washington — other than Russel Wilson’s anyway — because I get to meet Washingtonians who are leading the world in so many technological horizons, and this work is about as exciting as anything else that’s going on in the state,” Inslee said at the event.
Nohla is developing a cellular technology platform first invented by the company’s co-founder and Chief Medical Officer Colleen Delaney. The startup is currently using the platform to pursue more effective and less dangerous stem cell transplants for Leukemia patients, a step that could save the lives of those with advanced or recurring cancer.
But, Delaney said, that’s just the tip of the iceberg for the platform. It could be used to improve or create a huge variety of therapies for cancer and beyond.
“The fact that you can make this both the most efficient, logistically, but also such a great benefit to patients is just an extraordinary achievement,” Inslee said. “The personal benefits of this are just incredible.”
Inslee has been an advocate for steps that would help Washington’s life science industry flourish, like creating more wet lab space in Seattle. He also encouraged Nohla’s staff to advocate for legislative measures like the Research and Development tax credit, which would give tax breaks to life science companies as they invest in R&D. That tax credit expired in 2015, and is up for review to be reinstated.
For now, Nohla is already outgrowing its new office, and looking to expand even more as it continues to develop its technology. Check out the images below to get a look inside the new lab.
Governor Inslee’s interest in life sciences goes beyond jobs and income — he was also excited about the science behind Nohla’s technology. As Delaney showed him one piece of equipment, above, he pointed out the simple controls and joked, “It’s governor proof!”
The opening featured another special guest: Gregg Gordon was the thirteenth patient to have a stem cell transplant using Nohla’s technology, and later fully recovered from his advanced Leukemia. At the event he said the procedure likely saved his life. Studies have show cord blood transplants, which Nohla is working to improve, could have better long-term outcomes for Leukemia patients.