How a VC Firm Set Up a Biotech Incubator in an Older Manhattan Building

SOSV built out the entire ninth floor of 7 Penn Plaza

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How do you squeeze a biotech incubator into a 1920s office building? With a little bit of creative engineering, it turns out. 

SOSV, a venture capital firm that invests in climate and biotech startups, decided to rent the entire ninth floor at The Feil Organization’s 7 Penn Plaza to build out lab and office space for its life sciences incubator program, IndieBio. The 30,000-square-foot space includes colorful touches in the communal work areas, to balance the very white lab space enclosed by glass in the middle of the office. 

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The reception area features a cafe and lounge with light brown, hygge-inspired leather and wood armchairs, and an overstuffed light brown couch, arrayed on top of a rug that looks like it’s been splashed with a rainbow of colors. The lounge is rounded out by a long wooden table and black chairs, as well as suspended glass block walls — colored green, blue and white — that serve to separate the space and display the firm’s name, SOSV. 

“We approached it as a blank slate that was mostly driven by conversations with the client,” said Caroline Bergin, the interior design chief at SGA Architecture who oversaw the project. “A lot of thought went into the layout, because we wanted to create a hub for collaboration. When you enter the space, you enter this cafe, a collaborative amenity area. Then it has direct views into the lab to really put science and the work scientists are doing on display.” 

The other side of the lab features a more casual workspace outfitted with yellow and green beanbag chairs and blond wood tables for small group meetings. An open workstation area features long white tables, gray desk chairs, a colorful geometric carpet, and a design on the white walls that resembles a long line of red, yellow and blue particles. 

To accommodate the required ventilation, SGA and the mechanical engineers from JB&B built out extra mechanical space on the seventh floor and routed the exhaust to the roof. Adam Spagnolo, CEO and partner at SGA, explained that it was faster and more cost effective to do the extra mechanical work on the same floor rather than doing it on the roof, which would require much more ductwork and cabling. 

Other unique aspects of the office include a jungle-themed podcast room and an event space large enough to fit 140 people. The public gathering space has cafe-style booths with yellow bench seats, as well as orange and green couches.  

Construction began in May 2022 and wrapped in January. Spagnolo noted that an accelerator workspace like IndieBio can generate up to 250,000 square feet of new office leases, as the companies leave the shared office and grow into their own spaces.

Rebecca Baird-Remba can be reached at rbairdremba@commercialobserver.com