One of the latest developments to pop up in the West Midtown neighborhood of Atlanta is not only set to transform the skyline, it could help the city secure its place as a hub for life science, medical, and healthcare innovation.
Science Square, located on 18 acres due west of Georgia Tech’s campus, is set to open this quarter. It will serve as a mixed-use space catering to R&D-heavy companies…something that has been sorely lacking for local healthcare startups. The first to move in will be Portal Innovations, a Chicago-based life sciences venture capital firm that will open a fully-equipped lab space for budding Atlanta entrepreneurs.
Portal is bringing two things that local life science innovators say have been missing in the city: industry-specific venture capital and lab space.
Portal has quickly become a staple of Chicago’s entrepreneurial ecosystem with its flagship location in the Fulton Market. The fund raised $100 million earlier this year. John Flavin, founder and CEO of Portal Innovations, said that expanding into Atlanta will help more entrepreneurs build locally without having to move to other life science and HealthTech hubs.
“Atlanta was a natural next choice for us because of the activities that are happening around Tech Square…the building blocks and the entrepreneurial culture were clearly already present in Atlanta. But what was missing was that infrastructure and the seed capital for life sciences companies,” he told Hypepotamus last year. “We feel like it would be a fertile ground where startups as an overtime larger companies will want to be.”
Atlanta’s HealthTech Foundation
Boston and the Bay Area are well-known for churning out successful healthcare-related startups. But Atlanta’s budding life science sector – an innovation umbrella that includes HealthTech, BioTech, medical device startups – has a pretty solid foundation on which to build.
The city is home to the CDC, two medical schools, and the top ranked biomedical engineering program in the country. It is also home to three R1 research institutions – Emory, Georgia Tech and Georgia State. Emory University’s Dr. Dennis Liotta discovered the antiviral drug Emtriva that was approved for HIV treatment in 2003.
In recent years the city has seen the growth of a new cutting-edge research campus at Children’s Hospital of Atlanta (CHOA), the Center for MedTech Excellence, and the Global Center for Medical Innovation. Mobile healthcare company Sharecare, founded in 2010, went public in 2021.
The Early-Stage Scene
The local startup ecosystem is also buzzing.
The Atlanta Healthcare Entrepreneur Meetup group has grown to over 2,900 members over the last five years, Atlanta Ventures’ VP of Marketing and Community Jacey Cadet, told Hypepotamus. Nearly 60 MedTech and HealthTech speakers have presented during the virtual monthly meetup series, showing the strength of the local community.
“The goal of these meetups is to facilitate connections, hear from industry professionals, and truly dig deeper into Healthcare problems that Atlanta entrepreneurs can help solve,” Cadet added.
Funding into healthcare and MedTech startups has been heating up. Ventures like InpharmD and NFANT Labs have landed investment checks over the last few weeks.
Other venture-backed healthcare related startups in town include Impiricus, Florence Healthcare, Loyal, ModifyHealth, MedTrans Go, OncoLens, Patientco, Patientory, Physician 360, Rimidi, and Reframe, just to name a few.
What’s To Come
Large healthcare organizations have also taken note of and started investing in the local healthcare innovation scene.
One such organization is Catalyst by Wellstar, which runs a $100 million venture fund and supports the HealthTech vertical at ATDC, Georgia’s technology incubator, and the Engage program.
Jaimie Clark, Head of Innovation for Catalyst and Director of Innovation for Wellstar, said that the funding, talent, and resources available now for healthcare-related startups means Atlanta is growth.
“While other cities may be further along in their ecosystem development, ATL is a growing force, fostering innovation and access to markets,” Clark added. “Founders don’t have to look any further than Atlanta to launch their companies — once launched, they can access customers and growth globally. It’s an exciting time for local entrepreneurs and founders.”
The reality is that most life sciences and healthcare-related startups face a long road to bring a product to market, since getting through FDA regulations and clinical trials can take years. But with the official launch of Science Square, and the new sources of capital in town, 2024 just might be a breakout year for local healthcare startups.