Three miles north of downtown Pittsburgh, nestled between the Ohio River and the rolling Allegheny foothills, lies the town of Bellevue, PA. The borough is emblematic of many American towns which once depended on a local manufacturing base for their livelihood. The communities suffered as the national and local economies transitioned away from steel production and manufacturing and are now home to many industrial buildings and houses that have seen better days. What many of these postindustrial neighborhoods do not have is proximity to some of the most advanced research capabilities in AI, machine learning, robotics, emerging tech, and life sciences in the world, supported by billions of dollars in non-dilutive funding from the federal government. The intellectual property engines at Carnegie Mellon University and The University of Pittsburgh are a big reason why Pittsburgh, once a classic rust-belt city, now has a life sciences and biotech ecosystem that has recently been recognized as one of the top emerging innovation clusters in the world. Innovation doesn’t always mean technology; sometimes it means looking at problems and assets in a new way. Welcome to Allegheny General Hospital’s Suburban Campus: a sevenstory, 230,000 square foot brick building that shuttered most hospital operations in 2010. It took a physician turned entrepreneur with the right mix of business acumen and creative courage to envision how an empty “zombie” hospital could come to embody the transition from old economy to new and create opportunity and growth for the entire region.
[ Q3 ] 2022
How a Zombie Hospital in Pennsylvania Was Reborn as a Startup Accelerator
The team at AlphaLab Health is leading the way in policy innovation by saving the Suburban Hospital Facility from being mothballed and converting it into a community resource center and innovation hub.
Support services are important, but to drive economic development we need to assist entrepreneurs and innovators to become the employers of tomorrow. Jeff Cohen, M.D. recognized the facility possesses the infrastructure and connections to house a fully integrated innovation hub and incubator in health sciences. In 2019, when he became the first-ever Chief Physician Executive for the newly formed AHN Innovations, he quickly recruited Innovation Works— the most active seed stage funder in southwest Pennsylvania and one of the most active in the country. They joined their expertise to create a new life sciences and bio tech accelerator: AlphaLab Health.
AlphaLab Health gives entrepreneurs access to specialized clinicians, insurers, hospital administrators and domain experts that accelerate the new company’s growth. The program links emerging companies with early customers, corporate partners, potential investors and knowledgeable staff and mentors. The companies also receive up to $100,000 in pre-seed investment. “While AHN has long been a leader in clinical research and innovation, AlphaLab Health is a transformative partnership that takes our commitment to an entirely new level and further elevates the Pittsburgh region’s profile as a wellspring of pioneering, game-changing ideas and solutions in