Building on the success of Johns Hopkins University's first business accelerator, FastForward, in demand since it opened nearly two years ago, the university is expanding its innovation program to East Baltimore.
Called FastForward East, the new innovation hub aims to drive more economic development in Baltimore by supporting local start-ups as they head to market.
Grand opening events are planned for next week at the new site, located in the Rangos Building in the 800 block of North Wolfe Street, just north of the university's East Baltimore medical campus. On Tuesday, there will be an afternoon business roundtable with local economic development officials followed by an evening celebration with university leadership. Local business leaders and Johns Hopkins faculty, staff, and students are invited to an open house on Wednesday.
"With the expansion of FastForward to East Baltimore, Johns Hopkins is demonstrating its commitment to building the innovation ecosystem at the university and more broadly, in Baltimore," said Christy Wyskiel, senior advisor to the university's president for enterprise development. "Space that is affordable and turnkey for start-ups is a part of our overall effort to help these early ventures realize their potential and bring innovation and life-changing technologies to market."
Nearly 80 companies have applied to the university's accelerator program since FastForward Homewood opened in the summer of 2013. Of those, 41 were accepted into the program as either virtual or resident participants. The original site in the Stieff Silver building near the Homewood campus is currently at capacity with 12 companies.
FastForward East has 6,000 square feet of office and lab space housed in the Rangos Building. There is a shared co-working space that can seat 28, six dedicated offices, and additional features, including a shared conference room, common room, and kitchen. Companies can also rent space in two wet labs—a space equipped with plumbing, ventilation, and the latest equipment for hands-on scientific research.
The FastForward East offices are adjacent to the new Atwater's Café at Hopkins, at the corner of Wolfe Street and Ashland Avenue.
Companies are not required to have a Johns Hopkins connection to lease space in the incubator. However, some space will be reserved for undergraduate students. Desk space in FastForward East will rent for as little as $200 a month, while monthly rent for a full office or a lab bench is about $800.
In addition to affordable space, start-ups at FastForward East will have access to the university's team of experts and network of mentors to help them navigate the intricacies of launching a business. The start-ups will receive coaching on everything from writing a business plan to applying for patents to finding potential investors.
Gemstone Biotherapeutics LLC, a stem cell therapeutics firm making novel treatments for wound healing, is among the first companies moving into FastForward East. One of the founders, Sharon Gerecht, an associate professor in Johns Hopkins' Whiting School of Engineering, says the complex in the shadow of the Johns Hopkins Hospital is the perfect location for a medical start-up.
"Hopkins labs have always produced world-class innovations that have the potential to impact millions of lives," said Gerecht, who expects Gemstone to grow into a world-class biotech company—and stay in Baltimore. "With FastForward, we now have infrastructure in place that improves the chances of getting these innovations to market."