Start-up biotech business expands, leaves Innovation Park

This November, a second start-up company will leave Innovation Park, the 55,000 sq. foot think-tank incubator on the Notre Dame campus, destined for the real world. Earlier this fall Data Realty moved out and now biotech business F Cubed is also about to spread its wings.

F Cubed launched in 2010 under the leadership of President and CEO Les Ivie. It initially occupied a 1200 sq. foot laboratory suite in Innovation Park. By 2011, it expanded to a second 1200 sq. foot suite, but growth this year has been so great, the business is being forced out.

"In the case of F Cubed, it was born here. The company did research and product development and now they've graduated. They're one of the first businesses to graduate from Innovation Park after Data Realty made the step first,” Chamber of Commerce of St. Joseph County CEO Jeff Rea said.

For IT storage center Data Realty, the next step was Ignition Park, situated on the grounds of the long defunct Studebaker Automobile Plant. However, F Cubed was not financially fit to turn a former brown field into a booming building. Stuck in the middle, it cracked a deal with South Bend and the University of Notre Dame to move into the vacated St. Joseph High School.

"We should be willing to help them out. So if there's a safe, dependable way to deploy some of that technology early on and give a company the chance to get their proof of concept, it's a great way the city can support the economy, while supporting these businesses trying these new ideas,” South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg said following a Wednesday morning media conference.

But the city will first support F Cubed, to the tune of $104,000 in funding. According to Don Inks with the Department of Community and Economic Development, the six-figure payout is being appropriated using tax increment finance, or TIF dollars, from the Airport TIF District.

In exchange, Ivie and his executive board will shell-out an additional $2.6 million to establish an 8,000 sq. foot laboratory within the former art wing at St. Joseph High School. That portion of the building was most attractive as it contains a security and sprinkler system, in addition to air conditioning, unlike most of the 59-year-old structure.

According to the inner workings of the deal, so long as F Cubed eventually transfers its operations to Ignition Park, the city's investment will not require reimbursement. However, if F Cubed backs out, the start-up endeavor will owe South Bend 150 percent of the city's initial investment, essentially $150,000.

"It’s a brain game company. They're drawing people from within the community and around the community to work in high-skilled jobs. So they occupy a very important place in our economy and have a lot of disposable income that allows us to create more jobs in different parts of our economic fabric,” Buttigieg added.

Within its current laboratory layout at Innovation Park, F Cubed is able to process about a dozen DNA biochips per day. Once it establishes operations at St. Joseph High School, that figure will grow to 48 biochips an hour. Come Jan. 2015, Ivie projects his cutting-edge research laboratory will sample 300,000 chips per year, invoiced at $50 per test.

The city of South Bend is already drafting plans for a multi-tenant commercial building at Ignition Park, expected to be built in the next few years. F Cubed says once that structure is erected; it will make its final move to the 140 acre site along Sample St., just south of the downtown district.

"We’re no different than farmers who have the fields out there. We need to plant as many seeds as we can. We’ve got to hope that the rain comes and it’s not too hot and it’s not too cold. If we plant seeds and do all the right things to harvest it the right way, those seeds will ultimately grow and that's what's happening in the case of F Cubed,” Rea concluded.

F Cubed currently employees eight full time and three part time staffers. However, Ivie expects that number to grow to 35 by Jan. 2015. Most of the soon-to-be-added positions will be high-skilled jobs, similar to the RV and automobile industry. Salaries will range from $30,000 to $35,000 a year and include a quality benefits package. To apply employment, email F Cubed at:

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