Reintroducing the Peoria NEXT Innovation Center

Attracting and nurturing life sciences startups… and so much more!

by Michael Stubbs, Bradley University
Martin Steel, Paul Corcoran, Mayor Rita Ali, Dr. Shane Needham, Bradley University President Stephen Standifird, Dr. Mitch Johnson
Martin Steel, Paul Corcoran, Mayor Rita Ali, Dr. Shane Needham, Bradley University President Stephen Standifird, Dr. Mitch Johnson

On behalf of Bradley University, I would like to reintroduce you to the Peoria NEXT Innovation Center. As the innovation center’s new director, I have been astounded by the excellent work accomplished here every day. As this goes to print, Peoria NEXT has 18 tenants spanning several major industries from life sciences to construction. 

While the substantial impact of current and former tenants is not widely known in the community, Peoria NEXT has been a beacon of economic development in the region. Its history of success continues with two recent events in the life science industry—an industry where Peoria has a right to win.

Veloxity Labs, LLC
Veloxity Labs, welcome to Peoria! This startup uses state-of-the-art bioanalytical technology to accelerate the drug development continuum. It is a 100% employee-owned, bioanalytical contract research organization that helps treat disease one sample at a time.

Veloxity Labs has chosen to call Peoria its home, and it’s a prime example to other life sciences startups that Peoria will support you every step of the way. Starting January 1, 2022, Veloxity Labs will lease two 800 square-foot wet labs in the Peoria NEXT Innovation Center. Even with a CEO from as far as Moscow, Idaho, Peoria was seen as a natural fit for Veloxity Labs due to the community’s entrepreneurial support, the strong healthcare presence, and the availability of biotechnology-specific wet labs that are perfect for its highly technical life sciences business. 

Access to the wet labs at Peoria NEXT has allowed Veloxity Labs to save several months of startup time and several thousands of dollars in buildout costs. According to Dr. Shane Needham, CEO of Veloxity Labs, “the higher education opportunities that Peoria offers—including that of Bradley University, University of Illinois College of Medicine, Illinois Central College and other state-run universities in proximity—were pivotal in Veloxity Labs’ decision, in that the pipeline of hardworking, highly educated, and highly trained talent of future employees runs deep.” In short, Veloxity Labs personifies Peoria’s competitive advantage, which is needed to land a startup company on the cutting edge of the life sciences industry.

Midwest Bioprocessing Center
Congratulations to Midwest Bioprocessing Center on receiving a $1.85 million grant from the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Formed in 2019 at the Peoria NEXT Innovation Center, the company is bringing important, new bioprocess technologies to market for human health and nutrition. The grant funds will allow it to expand from leasing one wet lab to three wet labs in the innovation center. They will also use the funds for research and discovery of sugars, oligosaccharides and glycans for antiviral research. 

Midwest Bioprocessing is building a name for itself in offering rare sugars, biochemicals, natural cosmetic ingredients and custom bioprocess solutions; they are a recent graduate of the 2021 Brave Launch Business Accelerator offered by the Illinois Small Business Development Center at Bradley University. Dr. David Demirjian, manager of Midwest Bioprocessing, greatly appreciates “the support he has received and is excited to be expanding at the Peoria NEXT Innovation Center.” Dr. Demirjian views Peoria NEXT as the ideal location for a biotechnology company, and he is looking forward to the numerous opportunities for collaboration with Veloxity Labs—especially those naturally occurring from operating neighboring labs. 

Michael Stubbs with Dr. David Demirjian of Midwest Bioprocessing Center
Michael Stubbs with Dr. David Demirjian of Midwest Bioprocessing Center

Community Impact
Through committed support from Bradley University, Peoria NEXT Innovation Center continues to foster the innovative and entrepreneurial capabilities of the Peoria area. To date, 49 companies have called Peoria NEXT home, and Veloxity Labs will make that number 50 and counting. Peoria NEXT has resulted in 775 jobs supporting companies that have raised more than $252 million in total funding, including more than $39 million in federal grants and awards. Bradley’s support of Peoria NEXT has not only resulted in this extraordinary impact, but the relationship has created employment opportunities for 66 Bradley interns and at least 69 Bradley full-time hires.

Bradley University’s committed and continued support of the Peoria NEXT Innovation Center and the Peoria-area entrepreneurial ecosystem as a whole is further cemented in Bradley President Stephen Standifird’s new strategic plan for the university. It is a key strategic action item of the university to “develop a more systematic approach to engagement with community partners to provide local internships and other experiential learning opportunities”—and the Peoria NEXT Innovation Center is a key component of this strategic imperative. 

The Peoria NEXT Innovation Center opened its doors in August 2007 and serves as a biotechnology and technology incubator for entrepreneurial businesses looking to make their mark on the world. The building at 801 W. Main Street has 48,000 square feet spread across three levels and contains 10 wet labs and 29 office spaces. The collaborative environment allows businesses to share knowledge and resources with fellow researchers, inventors and entrepreneurs looking to transform new technologies and innovations into thriving enterprises. PM

Michael Stubbs is director of the Peoria NEXT Innovation Center and director of technology commercialization for the Illinois Small Business Development Center within the Turner Center for Entrepreneurship at Bradley University.