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Opinion Piece

Fast Labs: Accelerating Lab Deployment for the Bio-Revolution

An opinion piece by Alastair Powell, Director, Bryden Wood.

The Bio-Revolution

The ‘bio-revolution’ is a term used to describe the recent and rapid advancement in the life sciences, brought about due to a convergence in major scientific breakthroughs and maturing technologies, including AI, automation, and genomics. Examples of the bio-revolution include:

  • The exponential reduction in cost to sequence the human genome, representing one of the fastest learning curves in history[1].
  • The global deployment of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines in under a year.
  • The subsequent development of mRNA vaccines to target previously undruggable diseases such as cancer, heart, and autoimmune disease (estimated to be available as early as 2030.)
  • The exponential rise of ATMPs (Advanced Therapy Medicinal Products), including cell and gene therapies, which were first approved only 14 years ago.
  • The 400x increase in FDA clinical trial studies for new drugs over the last two decades.
  • The rapid growth into new areas such as agriculture, consumer goods, bio-services, bio-computing, bio-informatics, and bio-industry.

As a result of these advancements, as well as wider social, political, and economic trends, the life science market is forecast to more than double in size over the next 10 years [2].

The Challenge: Exponential Demand, High Complexity, & Lagging Supply

Laboratories support all stages of the life science value chain, from R&D to manufacturing and diagnostics, and exponential market growth means exponential demand for lab space.

In addition to this rising demand, life science businesses and developers looking to deploy labs face additional challenges, including:

  • A lack of existing lab space in some locations already today. In Cambridge and Oxford for example (two of the UK’s main life science hubs), demand for labs now outstrips available supply by nearly a hundred to one[3].
  • Existing labs are increasingly not fit for purpose, incompatible with new science, technology, or regulations, or are simply in poor condition.
  • Supply-chain issues that are also impacting the wider construction industry, such as a shortage of materials or skilled labour, and which are increasingly competing against other major global challenges such as climate change or the housing crisis.
  • Lab projects that are relatively complex, with key issues including compliance (quality, safety, environment, permitting), difficulty in predicting the future (science, technology, sales forecasts), multiple stakeholders, and projects that require significant coordination during design and construction.

To solve this mounting challenge we need a solution that can deploy labs at speed.

Fast Lab

While all stages of a lab construction project can undoubtedly be accelerated, in our experience the biggest gains are to be found during the earliest stages of a project.

Fast Lab is a service by Bryden Wood that aims to accelerate the lab specification, design, and internal approval process, so that permitting, procurement, and construction can start as quickly as possible, and with a design that is less likely to change and cause future delay. Fast Lab achieves this by:

  • Translating scientific and technological requirements into a lab design and key project and business metrics.
  • Exploiting the standardization opportunities across all life science lab projects.
  • Enabling a rapid and iterative design process.
  • Providing inputs and feedback to/from all stakeholders (e.g. lab managers, project managers, Quality, EHS, tenants), improving buy-in, and reducing future change.
  • Embedding data and learnings from every project to continuously improve the service over time.

Fast Lab works by:

  • Using a standardized capacity model to rapidly translate scientific, technological, and commercial requirements (e.g. test types, technology options, demand scenarios) into an equipment list.
  • Using a design configurator to rapidly translate this equipment list, a library of equipment and building components, and codified design rules (e.g. building regulations, safety, and quality standards) into a coordinated and compliant multidisciplinary facility design.
  • Using an execution model to rapidly translate this lab design, historic project data, and other inputs, into a cost and program estimate, as well as other useful business metrics.

Fast Lab allows teams to complete all these steps in a single workshop, with numerous design iterations, scenarios, and improvements taking place in real-time. This makes it possible to start permitting, procurement, and construction activities in a matter of weeks, rather than months and opens the door to warp-speed lab deployment.

Fast Lab combines our experience in multidisciplinary lab design, capacity modelling, asset optimisation, automated design tools, and the creation of fast, scalable solutions to the world’s biggest construction challenges. It is aimed at life science businesses and developers including:

  • Larger businesses looking to design and construct their own labs.
  • Smaller businesses trying to identify the best premises to buy or lease.
  • Developers who want to construct labs that are a good fit for their target market.
  • Developers who want to attract a specific tenant.

The need for fast and scalable lab solutions is clear. In the US alone (about 1/3 of the global market), over 40 million square feet of lab and R&D space is currently under construction[4], with the global life sciences market forecast to grow on average 13% per year between now and 2030.

Fast Lab is now in development, and we are interested in working with innovative, forward-thinking life science businesses and developers to meet this growing demand…

[1] https://www.humanprogress.org/the-fastest-learning-curve-in-history/

[2] https://www.precedenceresearch.com/biotechnology-market

[3] Financial Times: Lab space shortage threatens life science boom in Oxford and Cambridge, Aug 2022.

[4] CBRE – 2023 US Life Sciences Outlook

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