Local biotech opening delayed

A new science-based business’s move to downtown Franklin is about seven months behind schedule.

But B2S Labs isn’t waiting for its building to be done to start work.

This semester, a Franklin College student will start an internship with B2S Labs to work to develop new medicines and pharmaceutical compounds. While an intern is working on genetically engineered cells with scientists in Indianapolis, B2S Labs will put $500,000 into 97 E. Monroe St. to improve the downtown Franklin building.

B2S Labs, the laboratory division of biotherapeutic firm B2S Life Sciences based in Beech Grove, originally planned to open a laboratory that makes specialized pharmaceutical drugs in Franklin by this summer. But the company hit snags with legal documents, including purchasing the building, which delayed the progress, chief executive officer Aleks Davis said.

Now, the company hopes to open its new Franklin facility, which eventually will employ 40 people, this January.

In the meantime, B2S Labs has worked with Franklin College to start an internship program and commit to teaching college courses as soon as next school year, said Steve Browder, Charles A. Deppe professor of biology at Franklin College. B2S Labs was hoping to use science lab space on campus this summer, but the college did not have all of the machinery necessary to do the work.

Instead, B2S Labs made a deal with AIT Laboratories in Indianapolis, where it will temporarily work until the building on Monroe Street is ready.

Learning opportunity

But the company wanted to start offering internships for college students and didn’t want to wait until January. That’s why it offered an internship to a Franklin senior, who will travel to Indianapolis two or three times per week and work on genetically modifying cells, Browder said. The senior is using the internship as his senior year experience project, which all senior science students must do before they graduate, Browder said.Once the permanent B2S Labs is up and running in Franklin, the college and the life science company will partner for more projects. In addition to classes being able to take field trips to B2S Labs, the company has committed to having their scientists teach advanced college courses, like tissue culture and advanced techniques in biotechnology, Browder said.

Students planning to go into biomedical or biotechnology majors can get ahead in their graduate studies by having tissue culture experience, but Franklin College does not have anyone able to teach that course based on its complexity, he said.

“It really gives Franklin College some credibility in terms of partnering with a life science company,” Browder said.

Good for bo

thThe college and B2S Labs will benefit by teaming up, Browder said. B2S Labs is more likely to get picked for federal grants when paired with a college or university, Browder said. And he said grant money could be matched so Franklin College can purchase new equipment that both partners could use.B2S Labs officials purchased 97 E. Monroe St. last week, where it plans to tailor pharmaceutical drugs to individual patients, and construction will start this month, Davis said.

The plan is to use both floors of the building, with the laboratory on the first floor and office space on the second. The second floor is currently in an atrium-style setup, which will remain once B2S Labs moves in, Davis said.

In addition to improving the façade of the building, two walls need to be reinforced because they are in danger of falling, Davis said.

What’s the price tag?

Renovating the building will cost an estimated $1 million, Davis said. But at least half of that will be needed before the building is move-in ready, he said. The façade work will be the top priority, since it needs to be done during warmer weather. The building will be stripped of its paint, leaving the original exposed brick. He said the outdoor masonry will be improved and updated so it has a historical look to fit with the rest of downtown Franklin.

By the time the doors open in January, about one-third of the lab space will be ready to use, Davis said. The rest of the laboratory and other smaller finishing touches to the building will be completed during the next year, he said.

The space will include an innovation hub, which college students and professors, city officials and businesses can use for presentations, job fairs or seminars, Davis said.

The innovation hub will be a 50- to 75-person room with its own entrance off Water Street, where an exercise studio used to have classes.

The company told city officials it will employ 40 people, including employees in business, marketing, finances and biotechnology.

The scientists will tailor proteins and peptides in pharmaceutical drugs for companies around the world through the Franklin lab. B2S Life Sciences started in 2002 and now works with more than 100 international companies to provide individualized medicine for people with cancer or diabetes.

Incentive package

Franklin officials offered an incentive package totaling more than $500,000 in loans, grants and cash. The package includes $250,000 in cash for construction from the city’s tax-increment financing district funding, a $50,000 grant to improve the façade of the building and a $200,000 low-interest loan for building renovations from the Franklin Development Corp. and a three-year, 100 percent tax break on property taxes for the building.The Franklin Redevelopment Commission paid $75,000 toward the purchase of 97 E. Monroe St., and the $250,000 grant for construction will be given out in the coming months.

Applications for the matching grant and loan through the Franklin Development Corp. are being finalized.