More investment committee companies are hiring scientists as they race to keep up with demand in laboratories

When Pat Larrabee began working in the life sciences field in the 1980s, she was the sixth employee at biotech company Crop Genetics International in Maryland, where she started as a bench researcher, washing and cleaning beakers and learning the industry from the ground up.

Nearly a decade later, the company asked Larrabee, who studied biology and holds a master’s degree in biotechnology management, to take on a new type of research project: helping it integrate part of its real estate portfolio, and its field-testing sites, which were It is located across multiple states.

My bosses said, “You understand the science, compliance, and business aspects of this. It’s been a learning curve, but somehow, I’ve been realizing it ever since.”

Today Larrabee is the founder and president of Facility Logix, a Maryland-based consulting firm that helps clients navigate the life sciences real estate industry. Once a pioneer in the field, it now operates in a completely different environment, where all contractors, architects and developers specialize in building life sciences.

But as the industry continues to see record growth and expansion, and faces an employment shortage as the science itself rapidly develops, the need to hire former scientists has become a new urgency.


“The talent pool was not huge at all,” Larrabee said. “And now, there are real estate companies like CBRE, JLL, and Cushman [& Wakefield] They are all racing to hire people.”

The industry has placed particular emphasis on scholars with backgrounds in operations or management, who can move into project management needs for development.

Sterling Bay, for example, has hired Dr. Suzette McKinney, who has a background in science and innovation, as principal and director of life sciences, and T3 Advisors, a Savills firm focused on lab planning, announced the hiring of a pair of Boston-area scientists Sharon Wilhelm and Ryan Bursicott , in September.

Do we want more real estate scholars? “The sure answer is yes,” said James Sheppard, partner in life sciences and managing director of Kadans UK.

Sheppard studied pharmacology and began his career in academia before moving into real estate – previously Head of Life Sciences at Cushman & Wakefield, based in London.

“An analytical approach and the ability to dissect tenant requirements becomes a really valuable skill set,” Sheppard said.


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Courtesy Facility Logix

Pat Larrabee, head of the Logix facility, began washing lab glassware, and says her scientific background has been a huge asset in real estate.

It seems clear that scientific expertise would be a huge advantage to sell lab space and attract tenants. When new startups talk about the specific requirements of their cell culture space, Larrabee said her background is very helpful: She’s done the work, and she has the foundation and foundation for thinking through the workflow and what may or may not represent a contamination risk.

With speed to market being critical in a market with such high demand, real estate companies need to understand exactly what clients want and avoid mistakes in design and planning.

“For me, understanding the processes each of these companies focus on makes a huge difference,” said Borsikot, who has ten years of molecular biology at Brandeis University and experience in laboratory management at Maas General Hospital. “Having this level of expertise means not putting the client in a facility they can’t use. Talking from world to world means pulling out the details, which are really important to prevent mistakes.”

It is easier to train science talent to understand the intricacies of real estate than it is to train middlemen in the operations of a biotech facility, Sheppard said. The way his and many others have been established, the scholarly talent, so to speak, is surrounded by staff who can help advise on the intricacies of leases and development timelines. He is currently looking to fill four positions and is struggling to find someone with the right experience and fit.

Scientists with operational experience are also in high demand by the biotech companies themselves. Part of his show of talent is the ability to work with many different types of companies and research — and get paid higher, says RJ Panzo, T3’s director.

“A lot of my science friends have had an ‘a-ha’ moment realizing what they can do now with a postdoc that doesn’t have to be a lab tech,” Borsicott said. “People are excited to know that there are not one or two paths that you need to use as scientists.”


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Courtesy of Savills

T3’s RJ Panzo

The science of biotechnology has always been fast-moving and ever-changing. But what has also changed is the competitiveness and desire by large landlords to retain existing tenants as they grow.

Sheppard sees the role of tenant services as perhaps the biggest advantage of hiring former scholars. Kadan’s ecosystem engagement team, which ensures all tenants can access equipment, talent, and connect dots – a kind of scientific concierge service – is attractive to scientists. Having a team member who can connect the dot to tenants is valuable, he said, because the landlord-tenant relationship in the life sciences is much more personal and involved than other real estate sectors.

“It is hard to find someone with such a deep scientific background who could be commercial and have such commercial skill,” he said.

Sheppard said there is no particular type of scientist he is looking to hire, other than those with entrepreneurial experience. In the UK, many science programs have classes or modules that focus on this skill set, which provide exposure to the commercial world and ultimately make them better employees.

Panzo agreed to focus on entrepreneurship – T3 is looking for those who want to “chart a new course in business,” and plans to hire more scientists in major markets including North Carolina, San Diego and San Francisco.

Ultimately, both emphasized the benefit of being rooted in the scientific method. In addition to the specifics of laboratory equipment, the analytical skills that scientists provide offer huge benefits in design decisions for larger labs and real estate.

“The nature of a person who is interested in science is someone who is always interested in learning,” Larrabee said. “Keeping up with changes is integral to someone who is interested in the industry, frankly.”

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