New SunX Wet Lab Opens at Eastern Shore Innovation Center
The Eastern Shore Innovation Center (ESIC) at the Dorchester Regional Technology Park has added a 1,100-square foot commercial wet laboratory. It is the first facility of its kind on the Delmarva Peninsula available for co-op use by businesses and researchers.
The new lab is operated by SunX Analytical, an Innovation Center licensee, that together with a $77,500 grant from the Rural Maryland Council and $125,000 of its own funds, built out the facility.
SunX is seeking to engage businesses in the region needing lab space, including those in the agriceutical, environmental and food industries.
Common uses for wet labs include chemical analysis of well water and residential lead contamination; agriceutical product development; chemical/biological quality assurance and life science research and product development.
SunX is one of the original start-up businesses leasing space at the ESIC. The company is working on new product technology to extract oil from agricultural hemp.
“We conducted a thorough search and were unable to find any commercial or higher education-based wet labs on the Eastern Shore for our own product development research,” said Barry Pritchard, an analytical chemist and managing member of SunX. “The Innovation Center has given us unparalleled support, so we proposed the idea of developing shared lab space that our company and others could use for testing and research at no cost to Dorchester County.”
Jeff Trice, Dorchester County Economic Development Director, said the new addition supports the mission of the Innovation Center to build a vibrant economic base for the region.
“The wet lab fosters a spirit of innovation among our tenants and improves their technical capabilities so new ideas can be developed and commercialized locally,” he said. “Through tours and demonstrations, it also creates opportunities to expose our middle and high school students to STEM-related research.”
Rob Figliozzi, a Salisbury PhD student at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, is SunX’s first co-op tenant at the lab. Figliozzi is developing a concept for a new medical research tool that will increase lab productivity and contribute to quicker discoveries of life saving techniques and products.
Pritchard said SunX is interested in consulting with local businesses to help them commercialize new ideas and technology. The company is also working on a STEM-focused workforce development initiative that, with the input of local industry partners, would provide career training and certifications.
“So much of today’s research focus is Internet based, but facilities like this dedicated to the hard sciences remain vital to many businesses looking to advance new ideas,” he said.
The lab is fully equipped and includes a fume hood, water purification system, spectrophotometer, glassware, furniture and chemical resistant counter tops. The facility is also readied for specialty gases and a bio hood may be added in the future.
Fixed monthly co-op fees to use the lab will be determined for each tenant based on needs, according to Pritchard. The space can also be used at an hourly rate. Businesses and researchers looking to access the lab must first become a co-working member at the Innovation Center. Memberships range from $150 a month for full-time businesses to $12.50 a month for student researchers and a one-time setup fee of $25.
“We offer a fully supportive environment to accelerate business growth and help entrepreneurs develop the next generation of technologies,” said Steve Dolbow, Innovation Center manager. “In addition to providing individual office space, our shared services at the Innovation Center include conference rooms, a lunch/snack room, fiber access with free high speed WIFI, web casting and conferencing, secure 24 x 7 access with video and badge security, copier/scanner and white boards.”
Every business in the ESIC is provided an experienced business mentor who has been certified by SCORE, a Small Business Administration organization, according to Dolbow. In addition, through a partnership with hotDesks, members have access to office facilities throughout the mid-Atlantic region.
Joseph T. Dashiell Builders, Inc. joined in the efforts to support business development at the ESIC by providing construction services for the wet lab “at cost.”
The ESIC opened in February 2016 with $1.2 million in funding from the Maryland Department of Commerce and $1 million from the Maryland Technology Development Corporation (TEDCO).