Investors could spend up to €27 million backing a centre that will aid the development of new medical device and pharmaceutical businesses in the Republic.
Pioneer Group is joining forces with Spear Street Capital to build a specialised facility designed to foster new and growing life science companies at The Campus, Cherrywood, in south Co Dublin.
Ayokunmi Ajetunmobi, Pioneer’s director of venture development, said on Thursday that the businesses had invested €7 million in the facility, located alongside life science companies already operating from The Campus at Cherrywood.
“There is up to half a million square feet available and we have up to €20 million more to invest in future developments,” he added.
Further spending will depend on demand, he explained. “We will review the response and what the demand is.”
Mr Ajetunmobi noted that if the demand were there, Pioneer could also invest outside Dublin.
Pioneer provides specialised centres for science and technology businesses at the start-up or growth stage of their development.
The company manages 2.6 million square feet. It has 10 centres in the UK, including Biocity in Glasgow and Nottingham, Edinburgh Technopole, Cardiff Edge, Colworth Science Park, and facilities in Manchester, Kent and Yorkshire.
Its Cherrywood centre includes five laboratories of 5,000sq ft each for companies that Mr Ajetunmobi explains have raised capital and are beginning to grow past their start-up phase.
It has 12 starter laboratories for earlier-stage companies beginning to develop their technologies.
Finally, it has one shared laboratory for businesses Mr Ajetunmobi calls “super start-ups” that are focused on collecting data to support their first fundraising efforts.
Pioneer says the 30,000sq ft complex could accommodate 15-20 businesses, employing more than 100 workers in all.
One tenant is VLE Therapeutics, an Enterprise Ireland-backed company spun out of Cherrywood Campus resident, APC. VLE works on systems that accelerate the pace of getting specialised medicines to the market.
Another is Australian biotech Inventia, which recently raised $25 million Australian dollars (€16 million) in venture capital. It focuses on cell biology and needed a European base. State agency IDA Ireland supports the business.
Mr Ajetunmobi pointed out that the centre could host both homegrown and multinational start-ups.
Pioneer is in talks with five or six more potential tenants, including an Israeli business that develops cancer treatments.
Spear Street approached Pioneer after it noticed interest from life-science businesses and was seeking a “unique selling point” for the Campus, which it bought in 2018.
Irish businesses APC and Genuity Science, spun out of Nova UCD, a unit of the Dublin university that aids researchers in bringing potentially commercial ideas through the initial stages of development, set up at the Cherrywood complex.
Mr Ajetunmobi, himself a UCD graduate, explained that the Republic had world-class research, access to talent and a big life-science industry presence, which Pioneer seeks when it considers where to invest.
The Republic lacks two other ingredients, laboratories and early-stage capital, but Mr Ajetunmobi remarked that Pioneer could provide these elements.
It sees IDA Ireland as a potential partner, with universities in Dublin, Cork, Galway and other centres as likely sources of future talent, he noted.
Pioneer and Spear Street formally opened what they dub the “Silicon docks for life sciences” on Thursday.
Rajiv Patel, Spear Street president, said the company was investing a significant amount to create an “innovation anchor” at the Campus.
Opening the facility, Dara Calleary, Minister of State for Trade Promotion, said developing the Republic as a destination to invest in and grow businesses provided the best protection against global economic challenges.