Sustained Inspiration: A Case Study on Incubator Space for Transformative Gene Therapy Cures

Scott McNallan, CRB
Kevin Ruddy, Amicus Therapeutics

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How can a lab facility sustain inspiration, employees, departments, and a company to discover cures for life-saving therapies? This is a case study of Amicus, a 46,000-square-foot center for gene therapy research. We will present how decisions led to a lab facility that directly impacts innovation, inspiration, and discovery.

Amicus selected the science center in West Philadelphia for their new center for research, near Louis Kahn's Medical Research Center on the University of Pennsylvania's campus. In 1960, Kahn transformed what was the standard isolated cellular labs of the day into studio-like environments. The legacy of research has continued to evolve in the area. This project will continue the evolution and expand what is possible in Philadelphia.

Bringing people together: The space is designed to attract and retain top researchers, promote collaboration and break down barriers to rapidly advance these potentially life-saving therapies. We created walkways and collaboration nooks nestled between labs and offices.

Flexibility and adaptability: We strategically found ways to accommodate BSL2 and BSL2+ labs and associated hazardous storage while maintaining open/flexible labs. We used a plug-and-play utility scheme and flexible casework to accommodate the ever-changing science in gene therapy research.

Imagination: We created environments with materials that represent their true nature, some playful and reflective and others absorptive and strong. Gene sequence patterns and living walls create intrigue. Ceilings and floors curve and move to bring people’s attention and focus from space to space. At the heart of the facility is a sculptural stair that moves people and their gaze through the space.

Learning Objectives

  • Understand the technical challenges of hazardous material management to develop unique solutions for lab control areas that still maintain openness and connections from offices to labs and across research departments;
  • Learn about design approaches that create "patient-focused" environments that bring scientists and their nascent ideas together to allow them to develop into life-transforming therapies;
  • Learn from the client's perspective what spaces and environments attract, retain, and inspire talented scientists, from monastic focused environments to dynamic light-filled collaborative labs; and
  • Gain an appreciation for the impact of revolutionary cell and gene therapies and cures are having on people's lives through personal stories and understand the challenges of bringing these therapies to market from idea inception to commercial manufacturing.


Scott McNallan, lead design architect at CRB, has 20 years of experience delivering integrated designs for clients across the life sciences industry, from manufacturing to R&D spaces. His passion is designing projects that celebrate the convergence of highly technical lab spaces with creative environments. His award-winning designs and experience have given him the ability to create innovative, efficient, and light-filled human-centered spaces that bring people and departments together.

Kevin Ruddy began his career working to create labs that develop life-saving therapies over 20 years ago. He is now the Director of Capital Projects at Amicus Therapeutics, a global biotechnology company at the forefront of therapies for rare and orphan diseases. Kevin is responsible for all aspects of the design, engineering, and construction of state of the art, modular, flexible, multi-million-dollar biologics research and manufacturing facilities.


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