In 2019, as John Pattison and Ian Johnson prepared to leave their San Francisco jobs to launch their own company producing meat from cell cultures, the big question was where. They weighed a number of cities before settling on a choice some might find surprising: Madison, Wisconsin.
The deciding factor? A new co-working laboratory called Forward BIOLABS that would substantially reduce the company’s startup costs. At the shared facility, Pattison and Johnson could pay lower rent, avoid a lengthy lease and forgo purchasing costly equipment.
Pattison was familiar with the model, as such co-working labs, whether private or nonprofit, are common on the coasts. But in other parts of the country, even as co-working office spaces have proliferated, such labs remain rare.
Pattison’s company, Cultured Decadence, which uses cell culture and tissue engineering technologies to create animal products like lobster, moved into the shared Madison space in April 2020.
“Had Forward BIOLABS or a facility like Forward BIOLABS not been available at that time, I don’t think we would have considered coming here,” Pattison said. “I would say it was pretty instrumental.”
Today, Cultured Decadence is one of 16 companies renting space on a month-to-month basis at the 10,000-square-foot nonprofit facility at University Research Park. Members, working on everything from gene therapy to food science to medical devices, can take advantage of shared equipment like incubators, fluorescence microscopes and osmometers, as well as key safety infrastructure like fume hoods and biosafety cabinets.