The Silicon Review
Scientific research is a form of business similar to farming, carpentry, or banking. The business of science deals with producing new innovations and discoveries that contributes to human society and knowledge advancements. Like any other business, science needs investments of money, human resources, property, capital, and facilities. R & D plays a major role in economic development by producing new technologies and knowledge, which provides people with a high paying job that can support various other jobs. Major drawbacks in the research segment are securing the initial funding and infrastructure. To meet the challenge, shared laboratories are being opened globally to meet the growing demands.
ATLATL Innovation Center (IC) started the largest shared Class A level laboratory space, designed as a Launchpad for high-potential life sciences. The company was founded in 2017, and it is based in Shanghai, China. ATLATL Innovation offers fully permitted laboratories and office space for scientists and entrepreneurs. ATLATL has also developed the advanced AI-based operation system for the research laboratories to meet the demands of growing research teams.
In conversation with Dr. Zhu, Founder and CEO of ATLATL Innovation Center
Q. Please share with us about your services in brief.
Most scientists face barriers to starting their ventures because of the need for tremendous upfront investment, infrastructure, instruments, and operations management. To change this situation, I launched the first shared lab, NEO-innovator, in 2010 and later initiated and co-founded Mass Innovation Labs in 2015. It was the first and largest Class A level lab provide shared instruments and space, private turnkey labs, and operations management. In 2017, ATLATL was launched and scaled up to a 2.0 model, AVIC+Lab, which combines four components with the research lab: artificial intelligence, venture capital, intellectual property, and CROs or CMOs. To conduct research more effectively, ATLATL set up R&D assembly lines based on its on-site CRO giants. Co-location CRO services reduce the failure rate of management, communication, and logistics. This unique model separates research design from bench work so that talented scientists can focus more on the key research, and technicians can deliver the jobs more efficiently. AI is addressed not only in operations management but also in drug design.
Meanwhile, leading VC companies and IP firms have joined the ecosystem built by ATLATL. Recently, ATLATL launched the 3.0 model, "Cloud Biolabs", which allow scientists to execute their experiments without physical presentation. ATLATL Center allocates each company or scientist a private minilab and project managers to lead the projects. With project managers' support, scientists can orchestrate multiple projects simultaneously while sitting comfortably at their computer anywhere in the world. ATLATL began to run experiments-on-demand last year and has served many R&D teams during the COVID-19 pandemic. ATLATL's Cloud Biolabs will be the future of lab work.
Q. How do you source equipment for your ecosystem?
It is impossible to buy all of the equipment for R & D and provide professional management services based on the equipment. Many incubators purchased equipment that does not cater to the dynamic change in research teams and do not manage the equipment effectively. To distribute our resources smartly, we set up various categories. ATLATL purchases the most basic equipment used by most research teams, such as PCR equipment, centrifuge, and dH2O system, among others. We also market research and source equipment based on the feedback from current residents and teams in the neighborhood or that plan to move in. We also build up partnerships with global leading equipment companies, such as Miltenyi, Danaher, and Berkeley lights, and local companies, such as Clinx and Fuson Long March. The partners not only provide their most cutting edge equipment but also provide training and technique support. With their support, we can manage the equipment more efficiently and bring mutual benefits to the partners.
Q. Tell us in brief about your AI-based operation system for the research laboratories.
I co-founded GENEE Scientific, a LIMS (Lab Information Management Company) company, when I was at Harvard Medical School. Later, we expanded the business to China and grew to be a team of more than 150 personnel. The life science informatics company was successfully listed on the National Equities Exchange and Quotation (NEEQ). To make research easier, more labs are using the LIMS in their research. A shared lab space needs to manage the space, instruments, and EHS with a smarter system. Armed by GENEE, ATLATL developed AI-based operating systems to ensure that the members from different companies can secure their data, handle toxic materials appropriately, and even behave safely in the lab space.
Q. Why do you think that there is a need for better research density and accelerated research commercialization?
When I was in Boston, I found that many local innovative companies benefit from the research density and accelerated commercialization ecosystem. The companies not only compete with each other but also learn from each other. The density makes scientists meet more often in person rather than over the phone, which may cause less effective communication. In addition, people from the same industry will build up closer relationships after hanging out. Local institutes, venture capitalists, biopharmaceuticals, and incubators work closely with innovation companies. It is a great combination of academy, industry, and investment. After moving to Shanghai, I found the same trend. Research shows that startup
activity and venture capital investment are now concentrated in some of the world's largest mega-cities. Among the leading cities for venture capital investment in the world, the top 10 cities accounted for more than $100 billion in venture capital investment on average each year between 2015 and 2017, or more than 60% of the total. Most of the ten leading global metros are in America or China and have high research density and innovation acceleration clusters.
Q. Do you have any new services ready to be launched?
ATLATL recently launched “Cloud Biolabs”, which allow scientists to execute their experiments without being physically present in a lab. ATLATL Center allocates each company or scientist a private minilab and project managers to lead the projects. The minimum lab size is approximately 200 sqft, but it can be unprecedentedly powerful by plugging into a 50,000 sqft core lab. To conduct research more effectively, ATLATL sets up R&D assembly lines based on its on-site CRO giants. ATLATL’s project directors execute projects on behalf of companies around the world by integrating the CRO modules into the private labs. During the key steps, our technician has real-time communication with remote scientists via video and audio synchronization tools that work side by side by sharing the data and pictures simultaneously. The Cloud Biolabs allow scientists to carry out multiple simultaneous projects from anywhere in the world while sitting comfortably at their computer.
Meet the leader behind the success of ATLATL Innovation Center
Dr. Zhu is the Founder and CEO of ATLATL Innovation Center, the largest shared Class A level research space in the world. Before ATLATL, Dr. Zhu initiated and co-founded Mass Innovation Labs in Boston. His laboratories incubated many leading biotech companies, including CRISPR, C4, Editas, Gritstone, CUE, TCR2, and Oncorus, most of which achieved an IPO in 3 years. Dr. Zhu brings a strong track record of entrepreneurial and operational expertise in the life sciences. His entrepreneurial achievements include founding NEO, a life sciences CRO, and co-founding GENEE Scientific, a life science informatics company that was successfully listed on the National Equities Exchange and Quotation (NEEQ). Dr. Zhu received a PhD from Fudan University and completed a post-doctoral fellowship at Harvard Medical School before receiving his MBA from Chicago Booth.