The husband-and-wife team of Rolf Muller and Judy Muller-Cohn, both of whom are microbiologists, have converted a Sorrento Valley office building into a hub for life science entrepreneurs.
“We are creating smaller lab space that is affordable and where companies can come and they have a closed door, they can put their sign up, they can work on their ideas, they can move forward toward commercialization or whatever they want to do,” Muller said. “We started to put the building together as a place where people can innovate in the heart of biotech space without being totally bound to five-year contracts.”
Muller wanted to create smaller spaces for start-up companies that were looking to lease space for two or three years rather than make any long-term commitments.
“Over the last couple of years prices, rent prices, went through the roof for biotech companies,” Muller said. “San Diego has some big companies, but it really is an innovation hub.”
The MxC Innovation Center at 5752 Oberlin Drive is named for the life science company that the pair founded, MxC Global, Inc.
Muller and his wife have created multiple life science companies and have worked as microbiology researchers.
The couple bought the 17,238-square-foot building for $5.2 million in September 2020 and spent about $600,000 renovating it.
“It has a character where I felt right at home when I saw it and it didn’t take me very long to make that decision to buy it,” Muller said. “I looked at it and thought, ‘Well, that would fit the bill exactly where small companies can innovate’.”
Most of the renovations were finished earlier this year, with some minor work continuing, said Luke Williams, an associate at CBRE, which is handling leasing of the Innovation Center.
The first floor of the building has been converted to lab space and the second floor is office space.
The lab space is close to move-in ready with lab spaces ranging from 500 square feet to 5,000 square feet, Williams said. “We would need to know if they (tenants) want us to put in some benches or if they’re going to bring them in.”
The office suites range from about 200 square feet to about 2,500 square feet.
The building was repainted inside, and out, and new flooring was added. That includes a new heating and air conditioning system.
Muller also added a Zen Garden to the rear of an outdoor patio and redid the rest of the landscaping.
“It’s completely transformed now,” Muller said.
The Innovation Center is about 50% leased. Tenants include a patent attorney, Julia Kim of In Vivo Patent Law, who Muller said can work with other tenants on patenting their discoveries.
Other tenants include a masseuse, who Muller said can help relieve the stress of long hours spent working in the labs, a leadership trainer, an accounting firm, and a group of psychologists.
Muller said that he’s also available to tenants as an adviser.
Among the companies he and his wife have founded are Biomatrica and Mobile Xpress Clinics. They also took over BioFluidica in 2017.
“All of a sudden, I feel like the old man who gives advice to the people who move in and sometimes, you don’t really think about it,” Muller said. “I didn’t really think about it, but what I hear now, a lot of people seem to be interested in what I’m saying.”
Headquarters: Sorrento Valley
Founders: Rolf Muller and Judy Muller-Cohn
Business: foster life science companies
Number of employees: NA
Notable: Founders Rolf Muller and Judy Muller-Cohn hold doctorates from the Pasteur Institute in Paris