Courtesy of Sylvester Zawadzki

A drug discovery company founded by Yale researchers is moving to New Haven, contributing to a growing biotech industry in the city.

Halda Therapeutics, a Branford-based drug discovery company, announced last Wednesday that it signed a lease for 9,800 square feet of lab and office space in Science Park. The company was founded by professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology Craig Crews and received funding from venture capital firms in early 2019, according to the company’s website. Company representatives told the News that Yale students are interning for Halda already and that relocating in the first quarter of 2021 would increase opportunities for all New Haven residents.

“We are huge proponents of keeping scientific and other talent in the state and specifically in New Haven,” said Scott Phillips, chief financial officer at Halda Therapeutics. “We need to find a way to give students opportunities to work at growing businesses — and that needs to include startups like us.”

In an email to the News, Phillips said the new lab space Halda will occupy is a part of the Winchester Works building at 115 Munson St. The Winchester Works building was renovated early last year to accommodate companies needing lab space. The building used to house an arms factory that employed tens of thousands of New Haveners.

Halda will occupy the newly renovated Winchester Works building at 115 Munson St. Courtesy of Sylvester Zawadzki

Now, representatives of the group who sold the building say the lab space will help New Haven “lead the next biotech expansion.” Halda is the first life science tenant in the building, which already houses Bank Mobile, a company that provides college students with digital checking accounts, and Transact Campus, a cashless campus technology company.

“The Works is the first stage in the Winchester Center master plan, which could eventually include the four remaining buildings and four development sites in Science Park at Yale,” said a press release from Winchester Partners. “Winchester Center could eventually include over 1,000 apartments, retail space and 500,000 square feet of office and lab space.”

That lab space has been crucial since a plan to develop 16,000 feet of incubator space by BioCT — an organization of biotech professionals — fell through last year due to a lack of state funding.

Another reason behind Halda’s move back to New Haven is their ties to Crews Laboratory — a cellular chemistry lab that employs both graduate and undergraduate students on campus. Phillips said the move will allow Halda to expand its research capabilities, advancing its discovery of precision medicine therapies for diseases.

Since its inception, Halda has been working with Yale’s Office of Cooperative Research, which helps University faculty commercialize their research and put their technology on the market. According to OCR Managing Director Jon Soderstrom, 40 to 50 new biotech ventures have emerged in the New Haven area in the past 10 years with the help of OCR.

“Halda is but the latest example of the burgeoning entrepreneurial spirit in and around Yale and New Haven,” said Soderstrom. “Halda will be moving into space next to companies that grew out of businesses created by Yale alums while they were still students on campus. Such entrepreneurial activities are helping to grow and transform the area economy, creating new opportunities for both students and residents.”

Many of the drugs developed in OCR biotech ventures have entered clinical trials. That includes Arvinas, a breast cancer treatment also developed by Crews. OCR’s website says the 48 companies it helped develop have raised $873 million in investment capital in the last five years.

According to Michael Piscitelli, the city’s economic development administrator, biotech developments will increase the level of economic activity and cohesion of Science Park. In the city, Science Park has traditionally served as a local incubator space that supports research and development facilities for companies, including Arvinas.

Piscitelli said local biotech companies have helped grow interest in the city’s career ladder and in the biotechnology degree programs at Yale, Gateway and Southern Connecticut State University. SCSU’s BioPath Skills Initiative is particularly geared towards cultivating local talent for bioscience and has placed students at companies in the Greater New Haven area.

“[Halda] is part of a growing economic base of companies here in New Haven that work to improve health outcomes and improve the quality of life for people all over the world,” Piscitelli wrote in an email to the News.

Jones Lang LaSalle Inc., the exclusive leasing agent for Winchester Works, brokered the deal between Winchester Partners and Halda.

Natalie Kainz | natalie.kainz@yale.edu