R&D Space: Tenant perspective on The Innovation Gateway
Co-location in areas of R&D intensity is a significant attraction for SMEs seeking space, as documented in our Real Estate Demand Report. However, the catalyst for decision-making is often nuanced, as we continue to hear from the start-ups and SMEs working within the London ecosystem. For this edition, we spoke with two new tenants at the recently launched Innovation Gateway on their search for space: Emily Curtis, a clinical exercise physiologist and co-founder of The Exercise Clinic, and Jugal Suthar, a clinical pharmacist by training and co-founder of Vesynta, a UCL spinout. (Vesynta is currently participating in MedCity’s Collaborate to Innovate: London Diagnostics programme.)
We began by asking what triggered their need for space.
I co-founded The Exercise Clinic in 2016, together with my colleague Chris Cottrell, who five years previously, had been diagnosed with aggressive prostate cancer. Chris was really benefitting from a structured exercise programme alongside multiple treatments, and so we teamed up to help others access the support Chris was finding so valuable. Our goal was to integrate safe, effective exercise into the cancer care pathway within the NHS.
Part of our early work was about understanding why exercise wasn’t more widely promoted. We talked to patients, clinicians and physiotherapy teams at different hospitals to understand more about this and what the barriers were for patients to participate in long-term exercise.
Until recently, around 50% of our work was 1-to-1 with private clients in Central London, and we were running our NHS pilot project remotely. We were working from home and, before that, using a co-working space, but we reached a point where we wanted our own office space. One of the catalysts for this was that the pilot project we began in November 2020, funded by The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity, was extended and we wanted to devote more time to developing this together.
We started looking for affordable office space in London and had previously seen an article about the development of the Innovation Gateway as part of The London Cancer Hub. The Innovation Gateway was ideal for us as we were already working with patients at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, which is less than 5 minutes’ walk away. Being based here means that we can more easily see patients in person, as well as meet with the physiotherapy and oncology teams. Office prices here are also much more affordable (about half the price) than in Central London. Our lease is also very flexible, which is important as we are a small company.
In our case, we were looking for independent lab space as our team grew in personnel. I co-founded Vesynta in 2019, a spinout from UCL. Our innovations are a combination of point-of-care drug assays, combined with digital therapeutics software to help ensure that the right dose of the right drug is given to each patient. We are currently focusing on children with cancer, as they are often challenging to dose correctly. We are fortunate to working alongside leading paediatric oncologists to develop a bedside testing technology to help dose chemotherapies more precisely.
We were initially working in the labs of the Adaptive and Responsive Nanomaterials Group at UCL’s Department of Chemical Engineering to develop our proof of concept and generate early data. But as our team was expanding and specialising, we recognised that we needed to become self-sufficient in terms of our operations. We needed office space and lab space where we could conduct wet chemistry in a safe manner, as well as hardware prototyping, circuit board manufacturing, 3D printing and materials fabrication, representing a wide range of scientific principles with a variety of hazards and risks. The lab we are in now, around 500 sq feet, allows us to do all of these things, which is a great advantage as we don’t have to outsource anything to meet our needs.
We don’t have many technical requirements. Our priorities were access to patients, clinicians and researchers. Our office space also functions as a studio where we can film exercises, and we have communal spaces here which are very well equipped.
The communal space is brilliant, particularly the breakout space outside the labs. There are also quiet spaces for calls if needed, and social spaces outside; it’s a well-designed and comfortable environment. We are looking forward to showcasing what we do here to potential investors and collaborators.
There is great potential for collaboration here, and we hope that this site is only going to become more attractive to companies over time. Being near to The Royal Marsden makes it much easier for us to follow up and develop relationships than if we were based elsewhere or working remotely.
I agree. We are co-located with other researchers in oncology at the Institute of Cancer Research, London (ICR), one of the world’s leading institutions for cancer research, where many of the activities overlap with what we do. We are in early conversations with the ICR to try and establish research collaborations there, and we’re already in partnership with some paediatric oncologists at the Royal Marsden. Our network here is only growing, which we’re excited to pursue further.
Emily mentioned that there was potentially a two-fold saving in office rent here, compared with Central London, but for lab space we see an even more exaggerated saving, as equipped laboratories are incredibly expensive in Central London. To have a lab space of this quality within Greater London is highly advantageous at this price point.
About Emily and Jugal
Emily Curtis is a Clinical Exercise Physiologist and co-Founder of The Exercise Clinic. Emily holds an honorary clinical contract with The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust to support the inclusion of exercise in the NHS patient pathway. The current pilot project she is involved in is called THRIVE and has been designed in collaboration with the oncology and physiotherapy teams to encourage people diagnosed with prostate cancer to engage in safe and effective exercise. The innovative pilot uses The Exercise Clinic’s platform which allows patients to report their activity and wellbeing information. This data, combined with clinical information, allows The Exercise Clinic to personalise their recommendations and support, which promotes long-term engagement in exercise.
Jugal Suthar is a clinical and industrial pharmacist, obtaining his MPharm degree from University College London. Jugal completed a PhD in Nanomedicine and Pharmaceutical Engineering at University College London, in collaboration with Pfizer Inc. His research marked a partnership between the Departments of Pharmacy and Chemical Engineering, developing novel biosensing approaches for the detection of exosomal protein biomarkers as part of minimally invasive liquid biopsies. His progress was recently recognised through his nomination as a Bioanalysis Rising Star in 2021. Jugal has helped found Vesynta through his passion for enterprise, med-tech and patient safety.
If you are a life sciences SME looking for R&D space in London, we may be able to help you find property to fit your needs through MedCity’s Lab Providers’ Forum.