There are still cardboard boxes strewn about, and no one has quite figured out how to operate the mega-size video screen in the lobby, but LabCentral is officially open in Cambridge.
The sparkling new $12 million coworking space for life science companies has its first six tenants in residence, with four more expected before the end of the year. These are promising young companies with small staffs (often three or fewer) that don’t want the hassle or expense of finding independent lab space and buying their own equipment. So they’re going to share things and likely pay far less than they would on their own: $4,000 per person each month in an open lab, or $12,000 for an entire team in one of eight available private labs.
LabCentral director Peter Parker and vice president Margaret O’Toole showed me around this week, and the facility has some pretty cool features.
For instance, there’s a trio of refrigerators that hold commonly used chemical reagents. Whenever you need one, you simply swipe your LabCentral badge, grab the chemical you need, and the fridge senses what’s been taken and bills your company’s account automatically. It’s like a minibar in a hotel room.
“Except it’s cheaper than a minibar,” O’Toole told me. “They get a great discount.”
Also, in a funny real estate quirk, LabCentral has the rights to a long, open staircase leading to the second floor of its building at 700 Main Street, but workers will never walk it because Pfizer occupies the second floor and doesn’t really want other drug developers peeking in. So LabCentral designers installed cushy butt pads on the steps for seating, and mounted a large television on the opposite wall. Might as well use it, right?
As I walked the halls at LabCentral, the layout reminded me of the Cambridge Innovation Center, with conference rooms and phone booths available for reservation by any of the tenants. Makes sense, since CIC founder Tim Rowe chairs LabCentral’s board of directors.
Like at the CIC, all the rooms at LabCentral have names, though I couldn’t detect the theme.
“They’re planets,” Parker explained. “Some well known, some obscure. We’re hoping people will gravitate to them.”