Sawing down desks and persevering through a hurricane -- how one biotech startup is managing to stay in NYC

  • Starting a biotech in NYC can be rewarding, but it isn’t always easy.
  • An example is personalised reproductive health company Celmatix, which has stayed in the city for the past nine years, despite cramped quarters and disruptions from a hurricane.
  • Despite billions in investments to make New York a biotech hub, challenges remain, especially a lack of available lab space for growing companies.

Biotech companies hoping to call New York City their home often don’t have it easy.

Pressure from investors to move to biotech hot beds like the Bay Area or Cambridge, Massachusetts, a lack of lab space to grow into and economic incentives to move elsewhere, can all be tempting reasons to pick up and relocate.

“Every month we’ve been here I’ve considered it,” said Piraye Yurttas Beim, the CEO of reproductive health startup Celmatix. Tax incentives from nearby states, New York’s high bar when it comes to regulating labs, lack of access to top healthcare investors, and more space have all been enticing reasons to head elsewhere. But she’s stuck it out.

Beim has kept the Celmatix headquarters in Manhattan for the past nine years, despite Hurricane Sandy destroying their office in 2012 and resorting to sawing down employees desks as the company doubled in size so they could stay in their current workspace.

Beim says despite these challenges she’s committed to staying in New York because of its proximity to top reproductive health facilities, such as Weill Cornell and Reproductive Medical Associates, which give Celmatix a strong pool of talent to recruit from. Celmatix makes a software that collects clinical data for fertility clinics and has a genetic test that screens for risk factors associated with female fertility.

“Because of the clinics and research partners here, we’re here,” she said. “We’re going to find a way to make it work.”

It’s something the city’s recognised, and alongside New York State are investing more than $US1 billion combined in an initiative known as LifeSci NYC, which will be used in part to provide tax credits given to early-stage companies in hopes of getting them to stick around and funding some early-stage startup incubators.

The funding is also being used to build new spaces for companies to grow into. A chunk of the funding will be used to build an “Applied Life Sciences Hub,” lab space for research and development. Proposals for what the hub might look like are due May 17.

Read more about the struggles NYC is facing in making itself a biotech scene, and what’s being done to address it.

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