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Open Cell launches shipping container labs at Shepherd's Bush Market to accelerate biotech start-up businesses

last modified Jun 07, 2018 03:47 PM
Co-founder and SynBio SRI Steering committee member Helene Steiner conceived the idea for Open Cell while working in Microsoft Research and also moonlighting as a lecturer in the Royal College of Art. Open Cell has joined forces with regeneration specialist, U+I, and the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham to launch Bio Lab – a biolab to offer affordable spaces at the Old Laundry Yard in Shepherds Bush Market. A first for London, phase one of Bio Lab will provide 20 low cost, start-up studios in shipping containers, in which innovators and entrepreneurs can build, test and demonstrate biotech focused innovations.

While at Microsoft, Helene was also teaching biodesign alongside Dr. Thomas Meany who was working in the Biotechnology Dept. of Cambridge University. They saw talented students with incredible ideas but nowhere to develop them. Steiner explains, “There is little or no infrastructure available to help talented scientists, designers and early stage biotech businesses to take their concepts to the next stage.  Open Cell is a meeting place for anyone in the sciences or design disciplines to contribute to the burgeoning biotech sector in London.  We are delighted U+I embraces our vision is providing space for our first hub."


Project funders and advisors Professors Paul Freemont and Richard Kitney, Co-directors of SynbiCITE, Imperial College London, added:  "We are seeing new companies popping up in unlikely places, outside the traditional University environment. By supporting Open Cell, we hope that early stage innovators can propel their ideas to prototypes faster than ever before. We are particularly excited about the opportunities for collaboration between designers, artists and biotechnologists that will make Open Cell and the UK the leading place for innovation in bio-based applications"

Zowie Broach, Head of Fashion at the Royal College of Art and Open Cell Advisor explains: “Shepherd’s Bush has always been a key location for textiles and materials across the history of fashion design in London.  Open Cell will be a space where the innovative and the traditional can work side by side adding a new layer, in new times, in new ways.”

London Borough Hammersmith and Fulham commented: "We were delighted to partner with U+I to bring educational innovation and leisure to this piece of underused derelict land in the heart of Shepherds Bush."

Richard Upton, Deputy CEO U+I expands: “For the past 18 months we have been working closely with the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham and the market traders at Shepherds Bush to modernise this fine London Market whilst retaining its treasured history and sense of identity. Careful listening to the community reveals a real appetite for positive change and we have made some subtle interventions that have started to increase footfall and diversity again. 

Our partnership with London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham at the Old Laundry Yard has encouraged us to take a more audacious step – providing a vibrant new destination attracting great local businesses which complements Shepherds Bush Market.  Conscious of the need to grow the local economy and to provide opportunity for all, we are delighted to partner with some of the most exciting people in the Biotech world to create Open Cell at the Old Laundry Yard, a short walk from the Royal College of Art and Imperial College. This collaboration in a London street market promises to be very special.”.


Old Laundry Yard launched earlier this year and is home to a number of food and drink businesses.



For more information regarding what’s coming up at Old Laundry Yard please visit


Old Laundry Yard, Uxbridge Rd, White City, London W12 8LH

Twitter / Instagram/ Facdebook: @oldlaundryyard @MyShepherdsBush @shepherdsbushmarket @myshepherdsbushmarket #OLY

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The Synthetic Biology Strategic Research Initiative provides a hub for anyone interested in Synthetic Biology at the University of Cambridge, as well as commercial partners and external collaborators.