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Lab Design and Furnishings

Bioscience 5 Project Offers Speculative Space for Life Sciences

The facility will accommodate cell and gene therapy manufacturing

MaryBeth DiDonna

Fitzsimons Innovation Community, a research community in Aurora, CO, has broken ground on Bioscience 5, a cell and gene therapy manufacturing building. The facility will house 90,000 square feet of flexible space for life sciences manufacturing, including a lab, office, distribution, manufacturing, assembly, and warehouse space. 

cell and gene manufacturing
Fitzsimons Innovation Community’s Bioscience 5 is a state-of-the-art facility for cell and gene therapy manufacturing designed to capitalize on that next stage of product manufacturing of technologies coming from campus and other partners.
MOA Architecture

The Fitzsimons Innovation Community investment in Bioscience 5 is nearly $35 million, with anticipation of supporting tenant improvements for companies ($17.3 million for the core and shell, plus $17.8 million in tenant improvement allowance). This is a small part of the investment, as cell and gene therapy manufacturing requires sophisticated equipment, cleanrooms, and a high level of air handling and power requirements. In addition, companies may invest another $50 million to $80 million for a full buildout of the manufacturing facility.

The project team consists of MOA Architecture (architect), Peak Engineering (structural engineer); Maxson Engineering (MEP engineer), Martin/Martin (civil engineer), and Norris Design (landscape architect). The project is expected to be completed in fall 2022. 

Lab Manager spoke with April Giles, Fitzsimons Innovation Community VP Business Development about this facility, as well as Brian Konczak, principal at MOA Architecture who was in charge of the Bioscience 5 project. 

Q: What was the need for this facility? 

A: Fitzsimons Innovation Community is a leading innovation community for visionaries boldly transforming science into the future of health and care. Our team works with passion and purpose to provide the facilities, services, and resources our community members need to transform the future of health and care. We invest in a collaborative, entrepreneurial community to attract innovators representing early stage, emerging, and established companies and organizations with a readily available talent pipeline. 

We partner with the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus to foster research and clinical relationships for our community members. Our team collaborates with business leaders and economic development partners to promote Fitzsimons Innovation Community and accelerate our growth. Located in Aurora, CO, Fitzsimons Innovation Community is the only organization in the Rocky Mountain West that offers specialized life sciences lab and office space with the opportunity to work alongside researchers and clinicians at a world-class medical destination.  

Our facilities allow us to attract, grow, and keep companies. According to a July 2021 CBRE report, the region’s vacancy rate (life sciences) sits at just 3.8 percent due to strong leasing activity since Q3 2020. Demand for space has increased 87.7 percent in the last nine months. Our new Bioscience 5 facility helps to address that need. 

The latest addition in our phased campus expansion, Bioscience 5 is designed to maximize developments in our community ecosystem. This facility allows us to accommodate member companies as they scale and reach a tipping point. It is the first building in our community with full scale commercial manufacturing to support member companies’ overall development—all in one place. Fitzsimons Innovation Community is growing with companies from an incubator with small start-ups (Bioscience 1) to growth- and later-stage companies (Bioscience 2 and Bioscience 3) and the ability for commercial companies to continue scaling in Bioscience 5 with manufacturing to take significant products to market. We’re modeling Bioscience 4 as we recognize the industry growth and the pace of investments happening in Colorado and nationally. We want to marry up with market to deliver products in-line with company growth cycles. 

Bioscience 5 is a state-of-the-art facility for cell and gene therapy manufacturing. There are more than 1,000 cell and gene therapy developers and clinical trials globally. These companies raised $15.9 billion in the first three quarters of 2020. Fitzsimons Innovation Community is home to number of these companies, such as Taiga Biotechnologies, Atara Biotherapeutics, and InVitria Bioscience. The new facility aligns the Fitzsimons Innovation Community pipeline of cell and gene therapy innovation, with cell and gene therapy expertise on the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical campus across the street. The CU Anschutz Medical Campus has national recognition for expertise in cell and gene therapy research and innovation, with nine world leading researchers in the field, conducting significant clinical trials with the campus health system partners (UCHealth and The Children’s Hospital Colorado), and advancing partnerships with industry. The technology emerging from the university campus requires a pivot to a later stage manufacturing facility to progress from what Community member Gates Biomanufacturing offers (clinical trial products through Phase 1). Bioscience 5 is meant to capitalize on that next stage of product manufacturing of technologies coming from campus and other partners. 

Q: Can you give an overall timeline from the original conception to the expected opening? 

A: The conceptual design of Bioscience 5 began in the fall of 2018 while the adjacent Bioscience 3 facility was under construction. The completion of the design depended on market demand as well as the design and construction of surrounding streets and infrastructure. The team completed design of Bioscience 5 in the spring of 2021 with plans for the facility to be occupied by the fall of 2022.

Q: What kinds of sustainability initiatives have been included in the design plan?

A: Economy and efficiency are central to the design of Bioscience 5. The primary building wall system is stained site-cast concrete panels, which are durable and nearly maintenance-free, alleviating the need to repaint on an ongoing basis. The building’s mechanical systems are designed to be expandable, scalable, and reconfigurable, allowing tenants to rightsize and customize systems based on their individual requirements. The flexibility allows us to avoid unnecessary oversizing or undersizing of mechanical systems. The design of floor slabs has been deferred to tenant build-out, which allows for flexible underground plumbing configuration and accommodates heavy or vibration-sensitive design that may be required by tenants. As with all buildings on the Fitzsimons Innovation Campus, Bioscience 5 is designed for economic and ecological longevity. The site design connects with the Campus’s multimodal transportation network, promoting bicycling and pedestrian connectivity to the RTD Light Rail system. Landscaping utilizing xeric plantings and drip-irrigation emphasize the importance of water conservation and capture the value of every drop of water.  

Q: Is there anything particularly unique or groundbreaking about your facility or the design plan?

A: Unique to the campus, Bioscience 5 is designed for cGMP production rather than research and design, which is typical elsewhere on the Fitzsimons Innovation Community. High-bay spaces can accommodate the cleanrooms and specialized manufacturing processes demanded by life science companies. For companies requiring USFDA certification, Bioscience 5 provides the perfect new home. 

Given its prominent gateway location on the Campus, the facility went through a rigorous approvals process with the Campus’s Design Review Board, which adheres to a strict aesthetic code. The design leverages the industrial and cost-effective tilt-up concrete panel construction approach to fit a large building into a human-scale, walkable campus while offering a high-quality design. 

Q: What sorts of challenges did you encounter during the design/build process, and how did you overcome them? 

A: One challenge the design and construction team faced was material escalation and delivery delays forecasted in 2020. To avoid cost increases and schedule delays, the team ordered building materials, such as steel, joists, and decking, early and prior to the completion of design.

Q: How did you work together with other members of the project team to collaborate on this building? Our readers will be especially interested to know what the collaboration process was like between the project team and the lab/facility management personnel—can you talk about your communication strategies and any compromises that needed to be reached in order to advance the project? 

A: Because this core building is being designed and built as a speculative building anticipating a certain tenant need, the design team was not able to collaborate directly with laboratory and facility managers directly related to this building. Therefore, the design team drew on recent projects and specialized consultants with cell and gene therapy facility expertise to determine the best criteria for a flexible mix of laboratory, cleanroom, and office space to support gene and cell therapy manufacturing. The roof structure is designed to allow the placement of roof-top mechanical equipment on concrete pads along the entire length of the building, while setting them back so that screening is not required, and the equipment is not visible from the adjacent walkways. The electric and water services are sized to accommodate the kinds of loads associated with these processes, and the tilt-up concrete panels are designed to allow for doors for entry and loading to be added later so that the building will continue to be flexible for future needs.

Q: If a similar facility or program were to look at your lab facilities for inspiration, what do you think they will take away as an example of what they should also implement in their own lab?

A: Takeaways: 

  • Economical and efficient building design can be aesthetically appealing, too.
  • Thoughtful consideration of infrastructure and system pathways can eliminate the guesswork of mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems design.
  • It is possible to have a cGMP space located within a more urban neighborhood fabric, not only in suburban and industrial park settings.