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Artistic rendering of JLABS
Rendering courtesy of JLABS

U of T and MaRS to Host First Canadian JLABS

Partnership with Johnson & Johnson will support up to 50 local biomedical startups

Promising biomedical-science entrepreneurs and researchers may soon find a new cutting-edge home – at the first JLABS incubator in Canada.

Fifty startups will work in the 40,000-square-foot facility, which is slated to open in April and will occupy one floor of the MaRs West Tower on College Street. The incubator is a collaboration between the University of Toronto, the Government of Ontario, the MaRS Discovery District, and Johnson & Johnson Innovation. The goal is to provide an atmosphere where biomedical startups can thrive: they will benefit from state-of-the-art lab space and access to senior researchers, industry consultants and funding partners.

The collaboration with JLABS is a natural extension of U of T’s focus on city-building and entrepreneurial activity. “Research and innovation are fundamental to the mission of the University of Toronto,” says President Meric Gertler.

The new collaboration will also allow entrepreneurs to transform their discoveries in the health-care field – be they related to pharmaceuticals, therapeutics, diagnostics, device development or data analysis – into market-worthy products. “The addition of JLABS will further propel the creation of new companies and new jobs, and ultimately new healthcare solutions that will benefit individuals and society for years to come,” says Gertler.

JLABS operates according to an open-innovation model. This means startups with the best ideas will get the space, and spinoffs led by U of T students, alumni or faculty are expected to compete strongly for these positions.

While about three-quarters of the JLABS floor will house labs, digital equipment and bench tops, there will also be meeting spaces to encourage interaction with industry mentors and potential investors. There are also JLABS in Boston, Houston and San Diego, and two in San Francisco.

U of T now owns four floors of the MaRs West Tower and will be taking a 20 per cent equity share in the building. The partnership solves an urgent need for new research space at the university by capitalizing on the existing building. “U of T is committed to translating our research into lifesaving technologies, and the move to these excellent facilities comes much faster and at less cost than any alternative,” says Scott Mabury, vice-president of operations for U of T.

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