BioSurplus Blog & News

April 17, 2014

The Boston Marathon Bombings – One Year Later

Boston StrongThis Tuesday, April 15th, 2014, marked the one-year anniversary of the tragic bombings at the finish line of the 117th Boston Marathon.

Boston is one of the largest cities in the United States, and its marathon one of the most beloved and well-known sporting events in the world.  The two home-made bombs set off by the Tsarnaev brothers, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar, shook the city to its core while unifying and bringing out the best in the strong people that proudly call Boston home.

A tribute ceremony was held at the Hynes Convention Center on Boylston Street on Tuesday afternoon, featuring Vice President Joe Biden, Mayor Martin J. Walsh, former mayor Thomas M. Menino and Governor Deval Patrick.  There were also words from survivors and performances by the Boston Children’s Chorus and the Boston Pops.

A flag-raising ceremony was held at the finish, with a moment of silence at 2:48 p.m. to mark the time the bombs went off.  Bells tolled as the flag was raised; the national anthem was performed afterward.  Later, a candlelight vigil was held at Garvey Park in Dorchester.

BioSurplus In Watertown

BioSurplus opened a warehouse and showroom in Watertown in December 2012, and since has thrown down roots as a member of the local life sciences community.  Kevin Burke, Senior Sales Associate, was working from home on the day of the bombings:

“At first we didn’t know what was happening, just that something big had occurred.  For the last four years, I had been right there at the finish line of the race.  That year I was watching on TV when the news broke.  When they finally announced the bombing I was in shock—I just couldn’t believe it.  Quite a few of my friends were running.  I later found out that one of them was just a few feet from the finish line when it happened, pulled to safety by a police officer just in time.”

The BioSurplus showroom was shut down during the resulting manhunt.  The shootout in Watertown on April 19th, 2013, between police and the Tsarnaev brothers took place less than two miles away.

Kevin Burke (r), with Celina Chang (l), Associate Director, Lab Central

Kevin Burke (r), with Celina Chang (l), Associate Director, Lab Central.

Local residents were terrified, and the marks left behind, both psychological and physical—including bullet holes and a car with a shot-out windshield—are still present in the neighborhood.

Kevin, who doesn’t live in Watertown himself, immediately thought about friends and co-workers in the area, and quickly reached out to make sure they were all right.

In the end, he was impressed by the way the Boston community responded to the tragedy:

“The local government did an amazing job of responding and recognizing the victims and heroes that rushed to their aid.  It was moving to me, the way the sports teams like the Red Sox rallied the community, and the way ‘Boston Strong’ quickly became the city’s rallying cry.  I’m proud to be a part of this community.”

BioSurplus typically holds a traditional customer-appreciation party, Cinco de Bio, at the beginning of May at each of its three locations.  The inaugural Boston edition was set to be held soon after the bombing.  In deference to the victims and their families, the party was cancelled, and a fundraiser was held in its stead.  All proceeds were donated to The One Fund Boston.

This Year’s Race

In a show of collective resilience, this year’s race is right on schedule.

With the largest number of participants since the 100th anniversary in 1996—36,000 runners are officially registered, including 5,000 that were stopped last year before they could reach the finish line—and double the number of spectators over last year at two million, the event is sure to be an emotional one for all.

Former Boston mayor Thomas M. Menino had this to say at Tuesday’s ceremony at the Hynes Convention Center:

“(I’m) so blessed to be here even though this day will always be hard.  It will always be hard, but this place will always be strong.”

In his own speech, Joe Biden added:

“You’ve become the face of America’s resolve for all the world to see.”

We’re looking forward to seeing that face on Monday at the 118th Boston Marathon.

April 11, 2014

Outfitting A Start-Up Lab – Interview With BioSurplus’ Jim Hower

BioSurplus' Jim Hower.

BioSurplus’ Jim Hower.

One of the things we take great pride in at BioSurplus is our ability to help researchers and entrepreneurs set up new labs from scratch at affordable prices.

We carry all the equipment needed to set up a basic biological R&D lab, including cabinets, centrifuges, microscopes, pipettors, cold storage and small benchtop items such as water baths, vortexers and many others.

In a typical scenario, a customer will come to us with an equipment wish list and one of our experienced sales team members will help them find the right equipment to meet their needs.

In his five-plus years at BioSurplus, Jim Hower has helped put together countless start-up labs for new and returning customers.  I recently had the opportunity to talk to him about his process, and he shared his knowledge and recommendations.  Here’s what he had to say:


Jim Hower on Equipping a Start-up Lab

Start-up labs often send me lists of equipment without a lot of detail.  In order to help match them up with the right piece of equipment in our inventory, I always ask the customer a series of questions for each line item:

Hoods:  I start by asking the customer what type of hood they need – biological safety cabinet (BSC), laminar flow hood/clean bench, PCR enclosure or fume hood.  If they’re working with infectious micro-organisms and need a biosafety cabinet, it’s important for them to let me know if they want the HEPA-filtered air exhausted into the room or out of the room through a duct.

Most BSCs we sell are Class II, Type A2 (formally known as Type A/B3), which release the HEPA-filtered air into the room.  I also ask the customer what size they need their BSC to be.  The most popular sizes are four- and six-foot BSCs.

Customers often ask me if the BSCs have UV lights.  A majority of the BSCs BioSurplus sells are equipped with UV lights, so this is rarely an issue.

Click here for more information on hoods on the BioSurplus website.


Cold Storage:  I first ask my customers to specify if they need a refrigerator, freezer (-20C), refrigerator/freezer combo, or ultra-low freezer (-80 or greater).  I then ask the following questions:

  • Do you need an upright or chest model?
  • What size (cu. ft.) do you need?
  • What voltage do you need?
  • Do you need it to be flammable storage or explosion proof?

Cold-storage size is a very critical issue for customers.  Many clients often store a large number of samples and they need to make sure that they will fit in the refrigerator or freezer they purchase from us.

Another challenge is to make sure that the cold storage product isn’t too large for the customer’s lab space.  Since chest freezers take up the most floor space, they are usually less popular than the upright models.  Still, there are certain applications where customers prefer chest freezers, since the freezer racks are more convenient to use in these models.

Click here for more information on cold storage on the BioSurplus website.


Jim in the BioSurplus booth at ASCB.

Jim in the BioSurplus booth at ASCB.

Pipettors:  Almost every lab uses pipettors.  Each customer often has his or her own brand preference such as Eppendorf, Rainin, Gilson or VWR, and we sell all of these at BioSurplus.  We don’t sell tips, though.

When inquiring about pipettors, customers will tell us what volumes of liquid they need them to dispense.  It is very common for start-up labs to buy an entire set of pipettors from us so that they will be able to dispense any liquid volume they desire during their experiments (anywhere from 1uL to 1mL).

We sell both single-channel and multi-channel pipettors.  Some of them are automatic, but a majority of them are mechanical (meaning no batteries are required).  We don’t calibrate any of the pipettors we sell, and our customers rarely have any problem with this.

Click here for more information on pipettors on the BioSurplus website.


Centrifuges:  I ask the following questions when a customer is looking for a centrifuge:

  • Do you need a benchtop or floor model?
  • Are you spinning tubes or microplates?
  • If tubes, what size tubes are you going to be spinning, and how fast?  This is the most important question, as their response will tell me if they need a micro-centrifuge, basic centrifuge or ultra-centrifuge
  • Do you need the centrifuge to be refrigerated?
  • Do you want it to be analog or digital?  Customers usually prefer digital displays, as they will tell them the exact speed and time remaining during a spin
  • If spinning tubes, do you prefer a fixed-angle rotor or swinging-bucket rotor?

Most start-up labs purchase at least one micro-centrifuge and one benchtop centrifuge for 15mL or 50mL tubes.  Many of our centrifuges don’t include rotors, so we work with customers to find compatible ones in our inventory.  If we don’t have the rotors in stock, we usually offer a discount to help offset the cost of buying a new rotor.

Click here for more information on centrifuges on the BioSurplus website.


Microscopes:  Most start-up labs require a microscope of some sort.  I always ask the following questions:

  • Do you need the microscope to be set up for fluorescence, phase contrast, bright-field, or dark-field?
  • Do you need it to be upright (objectives located above the stage), or inverted (objectives located below the stage)?  The one exception to this is if they are looking for a stereomicroscope
  • What type of objectives do you need?
  • Do you need the microscope to have a camera attached?  Only a few of the microscopes we acquire include a camera, however customers can always purchase a camera elsewhere, if necessary

 Click here for more information on microscopes on the BioSurplus website.


CO2 Incubators:  When working with cell cultures, labs will need CO2 incubators.  We sell single incubators and double-stacked incubators.  I ask the customer to identify whether or not they need them to be water jacketed (most popular), or air jacketed (less popular).  Most of the incubators we carry have a stainless-steel interior (more popular), while some have a copper interior (less popular).


Balances:  Every lab needs a balance of some sort.  Analytical balances have a glass enclosure (draft shield), and are used for measuring very small masses (e.g. powders).

Customers tell me the maximum weight they need the balance to work for, as well as the readability, which determines how many decimal places the instrument displays.  Our most popular balances have readabilities that range from 1 mg to 0.01 mg.


Other Small Benchtop Equipment:  Other small benchtop items that many of our start-up customers purchase include vortexers, hot plates, stir plates, heated stir plates, water baths, orbital shakers and dry-bath incubators.  I often ask customers if they need these items to have digital or analog displays.

If you have any questions, or are looking to outfit your start-up lab, don’t hesitate to give me a call at 650-262-6672, ext. 303.

April 7, 2014

The Winner of Our St. Patrick’s Day Microscope Raffle Is…

St. Paddys Day Winner

BioSurplus’ Kevin Burke with the winner of the VistaVision Microscope, Celina Chang – Associate Director at LabCentral

We would first like to thank all of our customers who were able to make it out to our St. Patrick’s Day Open House this year. Unfortunately, our raffle can only have one winner. Our lucky winner of the VWR VistaVision microscope raffle went to Celina Chang, Associate Director of Laboratory Operations at LabCentral, and we are ecstatic to see the microscope go somewhere it will have the opportunity to impact many varying types of research!

LabCentral’s mission is to help furnish the next generation of biotech companies by providing innovators and entrepreneurs with the start-up space and resources required to get off the ground. Incubator spaces, as they are called, are becoming more and more prominent in the life sciences industry for many reasons. These spaces for innovation allow start-ups that are in their infancy stage to conduct their research and grow their company organically, all for a fraction of the price and risk a ‘normal’ start-up may encounter.

Boasting 28,000 square-feet in facility space, this innovation hub houses their shared laboratory space in Kendall Square, Cambridge. Massachusetts is one of the leading hot-spots for life science innovation and LabCentral is hoping to pave a better way for life-science start-ups. LabCentral recently celebrated the Grand Opening of their facility on April 2nd and they hope to fill the lab-space that can house as many as 25 start-ups comprising about 100 scientists and entrepreneurs in the near future. There isn’t much doubt that they will be able to achieve this with strategic collaborations and support from life-science powerhouses such as Johnson&Johnson Innovation and the Massachusetts Life Science Center.

BioSurplus congratulates Ms. Celina Chang on channeling her ‘Luck of the Irish’ and winning the microscope giveaway. We wish her the best of luck with LabCentral and would like to thank her and the organization for their participation!

Click here to see who won our last microscope giveaway at QB3@953 in San Francisco, CA. 

April 4, 2014

Video: Mass Spec At BioSurplus

A mass spectrometer, or mass spec, is an instrument that ionizes or electrically charges molecules in a sample, and then measures and counts them.  This process consists of four steps:  ionization, acceleration, deflection and detection.  Mass specs themselves are composed of three main parts:  an ion source, a mass detector, and an analyzer.

(Click here or on the image below to watch the video)

Mass spec video at BioSurplus

BioSurplus carries a wide variety of mass specs, from older models to extremely sophisticated newer machines.  These include older ABI models, AB Sciex 5500s, Thermo LTQs, and models from Shimadzu and Agilent.

In order to help you make the right choice when you’re in the market for a pre-owned mass spec, BioSurplus has produced a video and accompanying article explaining the various types and models of mass specs available.

In the video, BioSurplus Senior Vice President Fred Hill covers mass spec basics as well as some of the models we have in inventory.  The article goes into greater detail on mass spectrometry and features sections on ion sources and the different types of analyzers.

All mass specs in our inventory were acquired from working labs and come with our 30-day guarantee.  Each piece was tested before being placed in inventory and then is tested again before we ship it to you.

Take a moment to watch the video and read the article here.

See below for a transcription of the video:

“A mass spec measures individual molecules and quantifies the types of molecules that are in a sample.  It does that through ionization of the molecule and then a special detector is used with a computer to tell you what the masses of the molecules are.

“There’s generally an ion source, a mass detector and analyzer as the three main components of the mass spec.  There are four steps to analysis with a mass spectrometer:  ionization, acceleration, deflection and detection.

“BioSurplus carries many different types of mass spectrometers.  We have several of the older ABI machines, we have some of the new AB Sciex such as the 5500s.  We have Thermo mass specs such as the LTQs.  We have some of the older Deca instruments; we also have Shimadzu and Agilent as well as some other manufacturers.”

April 3, 2014

Video: Microscopes At BioSurplus

Microscope technology has advanced tremendously since the first compound microscopes of the 1500’s.  Confocal, electron, and dark field microscopes are some of the instruments now available that open a window into the form and function of the tiniest of the tiny of the physical world.

(Click here or on the image below to watch the video)

Microscopes video at BioSurplus

Compound microscopes are still the most common variety, and BioSurplus carries a wide variety of them from the best manufacturers, including Leica, Zeiss, Olympus and VWR.  We also carry extremely sophisticated microscopes and offer unbeatable cost savings over new equipment pricing.

To help you navigate the many types of microscopes BioSurplus has in stock, we’ve produced a video and accompanying in-depth article for our website.  In the video, BioSurplus Senior VP Fred Hill explains microscope basics, and provides an overview of the different types of instruments on the market.

For further information we invite you to read our article that features sections on inverted and upright compound microscopes, electron microscopes—including scanning probe, fluorescence and light microscopy—inverted microscopes, and compound light microscopes.

Take a moment to view the video and read the article here.

See below for a transcription of the video:

“A microscope is essentially a piece of instrumentation that is used to look at things that are too small for the eye to see.  Almost all microscopes today are compound microscopes, which means that it’s a compound of the magnification of the eyepiece times the objective; most eyepieces are 10x.

“The objective can vary from 4 to 10 to 20 to 40 to sometimes even 100x.  So what you do is you compound that magnification 10x times the eyepiece times 4x times the objective.  So a compound microscope in that case would give you 40x final magnification. 

“There are many different types of microscopes available from BioSurplus. The easiest one to use is an optical microscope of which BioSurplus has many, which just uses light waves. There are confocal microscopes which use light waves along with lasers to measure depths of substances that you are looking at.  There are scanning electron microscopes. There are dark field microscopes.  There are fluorescent microscopes.  There are many different types of microscopes available and BioSurplus has most of these.”

March 31, 2014

Video: Plate Readers At BioSurplus

Plate readers, also known as microplate readers, are lab instruments that allow researchers to detect physical, chemical or biological changes within samples on a multi-well plate.  The instruments use light to measure absorbance, fluorescence and luminescence, and are available in single and multi-mode models.

(Click here or on the image below to watch the video)

Plate Readers Video At BioSurplus

In this video, which we’ve produced to help you make informed buying decisions, BioSurplus’ Antonio Johnson discusses the different types of plate readers available as well as the factors to consider when choosing a make and model.

We’ve also posted an in-depth article that covers the differences between plate readers and spectrophotometers and features a chart reviewing the applications and advantages of the various detection modes.

At BioSurplus we acquire all our plate readers from working labs.  Every piece is tested before it’s placed in inventory, and is then is tested again before we ship it to you.  Our inventory is constantly being updated with high quality plate readers from manufacturers such as BMG Lab Tech, Perkin Elmer, Molecular Devices, Thermo Scientific and more.

Take a moment to watch the video and read the article here.

See below for a transcription of the video:

“Plate readers are used in a laboratory to detect physical, chemical or biological changes within a sample.  This is usually measured on multi-well plate, typically a 96 well plate and it does so via measurement of light. 

When buying a used plate reader you do want to consider a few things, but the biggest factor you want to consider is what type of detection mode it uses.  A lot of the plate readers we have in stock can actually handle a variety of detection modes, absorbance, fluorescence, luminescence and you want to make sure the one it has works for the applications you want to use it for. 

The more popular plate readers that BioSurplus carries, we have BMG Lab Tech, Perkin Elmer, Molecular Devices, as well as Thermo Scientific.  When purchasing a used plate reader from BioSurplus you can rest assured that we made sure the instrument was working when we acquired it, that we tested on the way in and we’re testing it before it gets out to our customers, so it has the BioSurplus stamp on it.”

March 28, 2014

Video: Flow Cytometers At BioSurplus

Flow cytometers are common lab instruments used to count and sort cells labeled with a fluorescent dye or similar marker.  The instruments come in two basic types:  the cell counter, which simply counts the labeled cells, and the cell sorter, which both counts and directs labeled cells into a microplate.

(Click here or on the image below to watch the video)

Flow Cytometer Video At BioSurplus

Many newer-model flow cytometers come equipped with multiple lasers, allowing them to measure more than one label at a time.  Flow cytometers vary in speed, with older models running between 50 and 20,000 events per second, or EPS, and newer ones, such as the FACSAria and FACSCanto, from 70,000 to 100,000 EPS.

BioSurplus carries a wide variety of used cell counters and cell sorters from manufacturers such as Becton Dickinson and Beckman.  In order to help you make an informed purchase, we’ve produced a short video and accompanying detailed article with helpful information on flow cytometers and the models we carry.

The video features BioSurplus Senior Vice President Fred Hill, who tells us about the different available types and models of flow cytometers and their specifications.  The accompanying article covers in-depth material such as the different types of lasers, nozzle size and shape, and software.

Take a moment to watch the video and read the article here. 

See below for a transcription of the video:

“Flow cytometers are instruments that people can use to count or sort cells that have labels on them.  Nowadays with the complexity of the labels that are available, it’s quite common for flow cytometers to have multiple lasers in them in order to measure two, three, sometimes six or seven different labels at the same time. 

The difference between a cell sorter and just a counter is that a counter will literally just count the amount of cells that are labeled with a fluorescent type, whereas a sorter will actually direct cells into 96 well plate holes so that you can separate the cells that are labeled appropriately from the ones that you don’t want. 

Flow cytometers can vary substantially in speed, so that’s one of the things that the customer wants to consider. Some of the older machines can do between 50 and then 20,000 EPS, which is events per second. 

Faster machines that are coming out today are between 75 and over 100,000 EPS.  Becton Dickinson makes several different lines, as does Beckman and the older machines such as a FACSCalibur or FACSVantage might be in the 20,000 range. Newer machines such as the FACSAria and FACSCanto as well as the MoFlo and others from Beckman can do 70 to 100,000.”

March 27, 2014

Synthetic Biology in Action

Synthetic_BiologyBridging the gap between the living and nonliving world to create “living materials” is a concept that fuels a substantial amount of research in synthetic biology today. The goal is to tap into biological systems with the hope of finding solutions for human problems. Bacteria may offer us a powerful platform to discover those very solutions due to their ability to store data, clean dangerous waste, produce film-like images, and even make renewable fuel. The applications and implications within synthetic biology are very wide-reaching and even has the potential to impact the security of our energy, water and food! Well, a group of MIT engineers have recently published research that devises a way to combine a living E. coli cell with nonliving building blocks, such as gold nanoparticles and quantum dots, to create a hybrid material that responds to their environment.

“Our idea is to put the living and the nonliving worlds together to make hybrid materials that have living cells in them and are functional. It’s an interesting way of thinking about materials synthesis, which is very different from what people do now, which is usually a top-down approach” – Timothy Lu, Assistant professor of biological engineering at MIT

Self-Assembling Materials and Communicating Cells

Timothy Lu, Professor of Biological Engineering – MIT

Timothy Lu, Professor of Biological Engineering – MIT

These findings are particularly pivotal because it can exemplify the potential in the new approach to produce solar cells, self healing materials, or diagnostic sensors. E. coli is a common starting point because it naturally produces biofilms that contain curli fibers – proteins that help E. coli attach to surfaces. By modifying the peptides on the surface of the biofilm, they can capture nonliving materials and incorporate them into the biofilms. With this approach, Lu and his colleagues are also able to program the cells in order to control the biofilms’ properties and automatically create gold nanowires, conducting biofilms, and films studded with quantum dots that exhibit quantum mechanical properties such as conducting electricity.

The most significant property of these materials is their ability to communicate with each other and respond to their environment. Communication between cells is a very crucial property to have when engineering these hybrid materials. The aim is to imitate natural systems and how they form. An ideal example of this type of phenomena is found in bone formation. The proposed hybrid materials can communicate and coordinate with each other to control the composition of the biofilm and respond to environmental signals. Right now, this research can be utilized to explore it’s use in energy applications, such as batteries and solar panels, and in the converting of agricultural waste to biofuel. In the future, we may see this technique used to produce living diagnostic devices and scaffolding for tissue engineering. We may even see this technology in combination with 3-D printing to take what is known as “bioprinting” to the next level!

For more Synthetic Biology news, take a moment to read about the MIT Synthetic Biology Center’s three-year  collaboration with Pfizer.


March 21, 2014

fMRI – Jack Belliveau And The First Image Of Human Brain Function

Dr. Jack Belliveau

Dr. Jack Belliveau

Last month I wrote an article about Patient H.M. and the new findings recently published by UCSD researcher Jacopo Annese.  H.M. or Henry Molaison, as you may recall, suffered from a rare form of amnesia caused when a neurosurgeon removed his hippocampus in a procedure designed to alleviate severe epileptic seizures.

After the operation, H.M. was unable to form new memories, and became one of the most studied subjects in the history of neuroscience.

When Henry Molaison died in 2009, his brain was left to the Brain Observatory at UCSD.  Its founder, Dr. Annese, performed a marathon dissection of H.M.’s brain, cutting it into 2,401 tiny slices over a period of 56 hours.  The slices were later used to create a 3-D model in minute detail, down to the neuronal level.

I later found out that two weeks before I wrote that article, the world had lost one of the pioneers in the field of live brain imaging and the development of fMRI, or functional magnetic resonance imaging –  Dr. Jack Belliveau.

Jack Belliveau

Dr. Belliveau, who passed away on February 14th at the much-too-young age of 55, was a 30-year-old researcher at the Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging at Massachusetts General Hospital when he came up with a plan to make images of the brain in action.

According to his obituary in the New York Times, up to that point, doctors had been taking x-rays of the brain to look for injuries and had also used positron emission tomography scans, which required dangerous radioactive materials.

Cover Illustration - Science, article on fMRI.

Cover Illustration – Science, article on fMRI.

Dr. Belliveau had recently developed a technique to track blood flow in the brain, which he called dynamic susceptibility contrast, using an MRI machine.  His technique had been used to evaluate blood flow in stroke patients, and now he wanted to try it on a healthy brain in the act of thought or perception.

At first, Dr. Belliveau used a strobe light for his tests.  He would ask subjects to watch the strobe as they sat in an MRI machine, which took split second images of their brain.  He then compared the results to images taken while the strobe was turned off.

When this method failed to yield results, Belliveau switched to a set of goggles imprinted with a checkerboard pattern.  This time he found success and the visual areas of the brain showed up clearly on the images.  The results of these tests were published in a paper in the journal Science on November first, 1991, accompanied by a famous cover illustration depicting a human head, seen from the back, with a circle removed to reveal an illuminated visual cortex.

Other researchers such as Dr. Seiji Ogawa and Ken Kwong, were also instrumental in the development of fMRI and its use in cognitive science.  After the initial results were published, technological aspects of the procedure were improved and fMRI became an important research tool.

Dr. Belliveau went on to become the first president of the Organization for Human Brain Mapping and was working on combining different technological processes in order to produce clearer images at the time of his death.

fMRI and Cognitive Science

Dr. Bruce Rosen of the Martinos Center.

Dr. Bruce Rosen of the Martinos Center.

Since 1991, fMRI has played an important role in the development of cognitive science.  To mark its 20th anniversary in 2011, Dr. Bruce Rosen, who was Jack Belliveau’s adviser at the Martinos Center, gave a talk at the International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine meeting where he reviewed the impact of fMRI.

According to Dr. Rosen, as of 2011 fMRI had been a key tool in research that led to the publication of around 21,000 articles listed on PubMed, and that nine of the top ten university psychology departments in the U.S. counted on an fMRI system.  fMRI has been key to our understanding of memory, helping lead to a new conceptualization of memory from a retrospective function to one in which memory gives us the necessary information to make future predictions.

fMRI has also been instrumental to our understanding of the plasticity and development of the brain, and, perhaps most importantly, has helped change public perception of mental illness, showing, through before and after images, that mental illness has a biological basis and can indeed be treated.  In fact, governmental pressure, using fMRI images as evidence, led to the eventual coverage of mental illness by the health insurance industry, a major breakthrough for public health.

Although we have made huge strides in our understanding of the human brain over the last few decades, we have yet to uncover the majority of its mysteries.  We salute all the researchers, including Dr. Jack Belliveau, Jacopo Annese and their many colleagues, as they strive to find the answers to innumerable questions through the painstaking application of science.

March 14, 2014

GEN Releases Top-Ten U.S. Biopharma Clusters List

GEN logoGenetic Engineering & Biotechnology News (GEN) published a list of the top ten U.S. biopharma clusters this week.  And the top three clusters are (drumroll please…) -

(1) San Francisco, (2) Boston, and (3) San Diego.

BioSurplus operates used lab equipment megastores in each of these three cities, and the ranking is no great surprise.

But these types of lists can, and do, engender controversy.  For example, in reaction to a report published by real estate firm Jones Lang Lasalle based on 2012 data, biotech journalist Luke Timmerman responded with his own study, in which he created a list using criteria he felt to be more meaningful.  In the article he stated that many of these lists are “riddled with flawed and biased methodology, and are usually designed to push a political agenda.”

Whether you agree with him or not, it’s always interesting to take a look at the latest data.

The GEN report is based on research that took into account five main criteria:  patents awarded, NIH grant funding, venture capital funding, total lab space, and the number of jobs in the region.  The following are the ranking results:

  1. San Francisco
  2. Boston/Cambridge
  3. San Diego
  4. Maryland/Suburban Washington, DC
  5. New York City
  6. Seattle
  7. Philadelphia
  8. Raleigh-Durham, NC (Including Research Triangle Park)
  9. Los Angeles
  10. Chicago

You can check out the full list with accompanying stats by clicking here.

Let’s take a look at the markets BioSurplus calls home, starting with number three, San Diego.

#3 – San Diego

BioSurplus’ headquarters are located in the center of the San Diego biotech cluster in Sorrento Valley.  The region placed third in patents, with 1,335, VC funding, at $386 million and lab space, 13.05 million square feet.

The area fell behind in NIH grant funding, however, landing in seventh place at $98.4 million.  The study notes that San Diego is home to UCSD and many research institutes such as Scripps and Salk; the author was surprised that NIH funding wasn’t higher.  It makes sense to me that Boston and San Francisco would take the lead, though, as they are both home to multiple major universities, especially in the Boston Cambridge area.

Finally, San Diego’s BIO affiliate, BIOCOM, counted 56,605 jobs in San Diego County in 2012, expected to grow six percent by this year.  That’s 143 more jobs than Massachusetts.

#2 – Boston/Cambridge

The Boston/Cambridge region, where BioSurplus operates a megastore in Watertown, came in second in the GEN rankings.  Boston/Cambridge ranks first in NIH funding, at $201.4 million, second in patents, with 2,908, VC funding with $979 million, and lab space, 18.687 million square feet.

According to MassBio the area was home to 56,462 industry jobs in 2012.  GEN also points out that a building boom is underway that will add more than 3.5 million square feet of lab and office space when completed.

#1 – San Francisco Bay Area

Number one in the rankings is the San Francisco Bay AreaBioSurplus moved into a large warehouse in South San Francisco last year, from a previous location in Fremont.

The Bay Area comes in first in patents at 3,492 and second in NIH grants at $119.8 million.  The study found conflicting jobs numbers, though.  The California Economic Development Department lists 110,337 “life sciences” jobs in the first quarter of 2013, while another recently released report (which GEN does not identify in the article) cites 47,019.  The GEN study’s authors decided to split the difference and award the area the number one jobs ranking.

With its concentration of biotech, high-tech and venture capital firms, it’s natural that the Bay Area would come in first in VC deals, topping a billion dollars at $1.447 billion.  It also takes the number one spot in lab space, with 29.7 million square feet.

If you’re interested in reading Luke Timmerman’s response to the earlier Jones Lang Lasalle rankings for 2012, you can read the article on Xconomy here.  I found it to be an interesting read and recommend it highly.

Click here to read the bioclusters article on the GEN website.