Rosalind Franklin University Incubator Gains Support from Horizon Therapeutics
The first bioscience incubator in Lake County, Helix 51, which opened in May 2019, and RFU’s new Innovation and Research Park, expected to open early this year, represent an investment in affordable, state-of-the-art wet lab space critical for the expansion of the bioscience industry in Illinois.
“We are pleased that Horizon Therapeutics, one of Chicago’s life science leaders and also one of its fastest-growing companies, is stepping up to support the regional entrepreneurial activities energized by our new Helix 51 incubator,” said Dr. Ronald Kaplan, RFU’s executive vice president for research. “Horizon’s support in the regional bio ecosystem is pivotal. We expect to announce in the near future additional corporate partnerships.”
“We are committed to growing the Illinois and Lake County life sciences ecosystem and are pleased to support regional biomedical entrepreneurship, which offers an important window into innovation,” said Tim Walbert, chairman, president and chief executive officer, Horizon.
Dr. Kaplan, who also serves as interim dean of the university’s Chicago Medical School, has been a driving force in conceptualizing the planned first phase of the Innovation and Research Park, a 100,000 square-foot building designed to promote collaboration among academic and industry scientists, innovators, and entrepreneurs with the goal of accelerating the development of RFU’s nationally recognized research into prevention and treatment of disease.
The Helix 51 incubator, named in recognition of the iconic Photo 51 captured by the university’s namesake, which sparked the discovery and description of the structure of DNA, currently provides a supportive environment, including meeting, office and wet lab space for four companies working to develop treatments for disease and innovations in healthcare delivery. The incubator will expand into the Innovation and Research Park in the second quarter of 2020 to house a total of 15 early-stage bioscience companies, which will help fuel job creation and training within the bioscience industry.
Lake County is home to 33,000 bioscience jobs and 122 companies, according to Lake County Partners, a non-profit economic development group. Helix 51 provides a “soft landing” zone for international bioscience companies looking to establish a foothold in the United States and particularly the Illinois market. Development of the incubator is supported in part by $2.5 million in funding under the federal New Market Tax Credit program aimed at fueling investments that help create jobs and job-training opportunities in low-income communities.
Helix 51 and the Innovation and Research Park are also attracting investment and industry collaborations through an array of financial incentives under the Waukegan-North Chicago Enterprise Zone, a state program aimed at stimulating economic growth and community revitalization.