Thinking Ahead: New York City Bioscience Needs A Tugboat
This post is part of NYCEDC’s Thinking Ahead series, which features editorials from New York City leaders and influencers across key sectors and neighborhoods to foster dialogue around the issues impacting our city.
The following was written by Nina Tandon, CEO and co-founder of EpiBone, the world's first company that grows living human bones from your own cells for skeletal reconstruction. In addition to paving the way for the ultimate form of personalized medicine, Nina is a passionate supporter of all things New York and, in particular, seeing the biosciences thrive in her native hometown.
Here, Nina champions the most recent string of NYC life sciences initiatives. She believes that the city is poised to become a hub for the life sciences, but posits that there more can be done to ensure scientists have the tools they need to build their futures here.
I grew up on Roosevelt Island, a narrow island in the middle of the East River halfway between Manhattan and Queens.
I often ate my morning cereal while watching the tiny tugboats pushing barges upriver, against the changing currents.
The water and tugboats paint an apt metaphor for the spirit I feel as a New York-based scientist and entrepreneur. The tides of our city flow toward a future where we are not only the nation’s financial capital, but also a vibrant hub for incredible bioscience, as well. But we may need a little tugboat to help push us further upriver and create a viable early-stage support system for life science companies.
We started EpiBone to apply our biomedical engineering research to the world of regenerative medicine. Our technologies are designed to disrupt the world of skeletal reconstruction by using live patient cells to grow the customized living implants people need when their bones need repair. New York’s genetic diversity could make it the perfect place to showcase the power of personalized medicine.
New York is home to several major pharmaceutical companies and top-notch academic medical centers, as well as robust and growing venture capital and technology sectors. And with so many non-science industries such as fashion, art, food, and architecture, NYC forms a fertile soil that will help bioscience companies take root and flourish, especially as bioscience finds applicability in a widening array of fields.
But several transformations need to happen in order for more Life Sciences companies to thrive. I am heartened to see that the City of New York is catalyzing those transformations.
NYC Life Sciences Initiatives
One of the most difficult hurdles for new companies in this ferociously expensive city is finding real estate for life science R&D. That’s why we’re so excited to be a tenant in the Harlem Biospace, a NYCEDC-funded incubator that provides emerging life sciences companies with affordable space, mentorship, and programming. NYCEDC also has plans to redevelop underutilized real estate into a bioscience research center with much more new wet lab space.
In addition, NYCEDC has announced two initiatives meant to spur life sciences startups. The New York City Early-Stage Life Sciences Funding Initiative, along with the New York City Partnership Fund (NYCPF), will help create new life sciences companies to address chronic disease while simultaneously building a commercial biotech industry in the city.
We are excited about both of these efforts. The NYCPF has already been a great supporter of EpiBone; its BioAccelerate program gave us our first funding toward starting our company. Now we are bursting at the seams and looking to expand. We’ve put our 3D printer on top of our mini fridge, built a machine shop in the basement of Harlem Biospace, and added another layer of incubators in a stack. We believe the NYCPF will be part of our future growth.
I love seeing the NYC life sciences landscape widen to include the tools for scientists to build their future here, while helping create technologies that better the lives of everyone. As we pioneer technology that shows living cells can be our partners in medicine, we at Epibone hope to add to the robustness of our human communities right here in NYC
The New York City bioscience sector is about to find its steam engine.