Supporting biotech startups to scale

Labs from scientists for scientists.

Innovations in biotechnology have the power and potential to develop solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges: pandemics, food insecurity, inaccessible healthcare and climate change. As scientists, we know that the keys to unlocking these answers to these challenges lie deep within the study of life within us, and around us. 

As scientists, we know that there are so many life-changing possibilities that can be discovered and enabled through biotechnology: accelerating renewable energy, the improvement of patient outcomes and quality of life, biomaterials that lessen our reliance on plastics, novel food production methods that cut out the need for animal products, medicine that is both precise and personal to a patient, natural means of cleaning our air and water supplies. 
But also because we are scientists, we also understand that the business of biotechnology has some pretty high barriers to entry and success, especially if you’re a startup or small business. The cost of just getting set up for your R&D is high, you can only buy lab consumables in bulk (and then good luck finding storage for it all), regulation and compliance is incredibly complex and intellectual property reads like foregin language, and all of this before you even have your proof of concept. And where are you even meant to do the science? Lab spaces are expensive, in the middle of nowhere, and lock you into decades long leases. 

At OpenCell, we’re committed to lowering the entry barriers to biotech for startups and small businesses. Since 2018, we’ve worked with over 100 startups innovating across biotech and the life sciences, and gained a unique insight into the many obstacles they face. Every facet of our business, from our labs, our IoT software, our open source PCR labs, to our store and even our events like BioDesign Here Now, are all aimed at making biotech, and its endless possibilities for a better world, more open and accessible to everyone.  

Our Story

OpenCell is the brainchild of founders Helene Steiner and Tom Meany. Whilst getting their own biotech startup off the ground, they discovered that getting lab space as an early stage company was difficult, if not nearly impossible. The labs they found were overpriced and half a century out of date. As their frustration grew, so did an obsession with creating the perfect lab for startups which solved all the problems they were experiencing. 

In 2018 the team began converting shipping containers into labs and OpenCell was born. In just three years they multiplied from three labs to a village of 70 shipping container labs in Shepherd’s Bush London, and they had nurtured one of the biggest and most exciting biotech communities in the world, with over 100 biotech startups and life sciences companies. 

But of course, let’s not overlook the community of biotech whizzes! OpenCell are so lucky to count among its alumni, Better Dairy, BIOHM, Vivan Therapeutics, DNAe, Multus Media and Chip[s] Board.
Based on their expertise in liquid handling and molecular biology, OpenCell were awarded an Innovate UK grant, with partners at King's College London and Opentrons, to apply their shipping container model to COVID diagnostics. The result was a high-throughput diagnostic laboratories capable of up to 4000 tests a day, that could be immediately deployed anywhere in the world.

Using this technology, OpenCell was commissioned by the Government of Jersey to provide on-island testing to enable the island’s COVID-19 testing programme. As a part of the programme, all passengers arriving by sea or air were swab tested in one of their shipping container labs, at the point of arrival. In just over a year, OpenCell had completed more than half a million tests and achieved UKAS accreditation for the mobile high throughput facilities.

Our Team

We’re a team of scientists, designers and technologists that love biotechnology.
Ryan Godolphin
Industrial Designer
Sara Farahi
Research Scientist
Alfred Brown
Product Researcher
Javiera Perez
Product Research Engineer
Anthony Thomas
Head of Software Development
Ned Bransden
Head of Laboratories
Rhys Votano
Creative Director
Thomas Meany
Chief Technology Officer
Piero D'Angelo
Head of Procurement
Helene Steiner
Chief Executive Officer