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Biotechnology done collaboratively – Q&A with Laura Brightman

Laura Brightman is the Founder and CEO of Co-Lab, a new company setting up affordable, quality lab space for small and early stage bio startups. We spoke to Laura about how she ended up founding Co-Lab and what they are offering, as well as her role as an Ambassador for the Global Bio Fund.

Can you tell us about your background and how you came to form Co-Lab?

I graduated from Cambridge in Natural Sciences, with a focus on Neuroscience. I worked in research for a while, and co-founded a startup in the industry. As part of building that business, I spent some time in San Francisco, taking part in a programme called IndieBio (run by SOSV), learning about quickly building a business around research. With some other research work in the UK in between, I then returned to the States to do some work for Geltor, building up their cell culture laboratory and processes. I also went on to develop lab space for another company, Karma Biotechnologies, and helped them navigate the difficult 2020-2021 period.

I found that I really enjoyed this work, and also came into contact with Llewellyn Cox, who founded Lab Launch to create affordable, quality lab space in California.

Throughout all of this experience back and forth between the UK and US, two things really struck me. One, that I kept hearing from friends and colleagues in the UK about how hard it was to find lab space to work on starting a business. And, two, how much we can learn from the US in terms of the speed they facilitate startup development.

So, in 2021, I founded Co-Lab, and I’ve enjoyed lots of support from Llewellyn and his co-founder at Lab Launch, as well as other partners.

What will Co-Lab be offering?

There is some really great infrastructure being developed in the UK, but I find it’s often more focused on scaling a business, businesses that already have significant funding, or university spinouts. There isn’t really anything out there for two people and a bench. That’s the need we’re addressing.

lab space

We are working with the London Borough of Camden to explore opportunities for our first lab space, in the Knowledge Quarter area close to Kings’ Cross. We will be part of something called a ‘meanwhile use’, that helps keep spaces vibrant and active whilst future plans for the area are developed. We will be working with the local community to provide jobs, training and skills for local people and to engage with schools and existing businesses so local people can learn from our members and vice-versa.

We’re focused on offering something really affordable, flexible and good quality for small startups, and we’re looking at other similar options in Cambridge and other parts of London. Spaces like commercial warehouses work perfectly for lab setups, because they typically have concrete, load-bearing floors, and high ceilings for ventilation.

In addition to spaces like this that will offer bench rental, we also offer training to people looking to set up their own lab and procedures, or consultancy-type services, where we can help with that initial setup.

How did you get involved in the MedCity Lab Providers Forum?

I was referred to the MedCity Lab Providers Forum via a number of different routes, and I’ve found it really valuable for making connections with other providers. It’s developing into a really collaborative network, where we are able to refer enquiries to each other, depending on what the company is looking for, and on our different strengths and focus.

That’s wonderful to hear! And could you also tell us a bit about your role as a Global Bio Fund Ambassador?

I’ve been in touch with Ipshita Mandal-Johnson, CEO and Founding Partner at Global Bio Fund (GBF), ever since attending her first conference in Cambridge – GapSummit, run by Global Biotech Revolution. I’ve been really excited to watch that grow into her launching the GBF – which invests in, and scales, women-led bio ventures.

Traditionally there just hasn’t been enough support for women-led ventures – as the GBF and others have researched, in 2019 only 3% of venture capital was invested in women teams. But, paradoxically, women-led companies actually bring in 20% more revenue with 50% less money invested. Women-founded companies deliver a much higher rate of return for investors and diverse teams have been shown to be much more successful – so addressing that imbalance really makes financial sense for investors, as well as being the ethical thing to do.

I’m really enjoying being an Ambassador for the fund. I speak at conferences and help spread the word, and am available for women-led ventures to talk to, get advice and sense-check their suitability for the fund.

What do Global Bio Fund invest in?

GBF is actively seeking opportunities to work with other investors interested in this space. We invest and scale women-led bio ventures at early and growth stages especially those based in the US, UK, Australasia and selected high growth emerging markets. Driven by the people-planet-prosperity paradigm, we focus on sectors that offer high opportunity for growth, positive impact, and the significant participation of women.

Applicants have to have a bio or life sciences focus, have a minimum 50% women on their senior management team, and we also look at whether they have female advisors, because those layers of support are so important.

How can people find out more about both Co-Lab and the Global Bio Fund?

The Global Bio Fund has an open call for interested early-stage companies, so anyone that thinks they might fit the profile could contact me, or get in touch with the fund directly.

The next Global Biotech Revolution GapSummit, 5-7 September this year, will also be a really interesting opportunity for students and researchers, early-career professionals and bioentrepreneurs. Find out more and apply to be part of the summit.

For anyone interested in Co-Lab – either because they’re looking for lab space, or because they are an investor interested in early stage bio companies – I would love to hear from you. In general, I’m always interested in talking to anyone that has interesting new science ideas, so please get in touch!

Contact Co-Lab: Laura Brightman – [email protected]
Contact Global Bio Fund: Kate Rowley – [email protected]g

Find out more about MedCity Lab Providers Forum

If you are looking for lab space, or to provide space, please get in touch with MedCity Lab Providers Forum to find out how we can help: [email protected]

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