SALT LAKE CITY — Once the home for a purveyor of accessories for healthy outdoor activities, a sprawling anchor space in downtown's Gateway shopping center will now play host to a company committed to solving some of the most perplexing — and lethal — internal health issues facing the world of medicine.
Salt Lake City-based Recursion Pharmaceuticals, a rapidly expanding biotech firm founded in 2013, has outgrown two previous spaces at Research Park, and according to co-founder and CEO Chris Gibson, it was a company in need of a new home that could accommodate future growth while still maintaining the feel of an open and collaborative workspace.
"I remember shopping at Dick's Sporting Goods at Gateway and never imagined it could end up being the site for our headquarters," Gibson said. "The openness of the space really spoke to me. With the vaulted central area, you can see from one level to the next, and that was meaningful because we wanted to have our teams feel really connected to each other."
Gibson's company, which was seeded by research he began as a doctoral candidate at the University of Utah, is primarily focused on finding treatments for rare diseases.
Recursion has developed an innovative approach that uses automated laboratory processes and analytics based on an artificial intelligence platform that allows it to conduct some 100,000 cellular experiments a week.
Instead of taking the more traditional biotech approach of committing to developing a solution to a single ailment, Gibson said his company is assessing thousands of disorders against treatment possibilities that could be provided by any of thousands of previously developed drugs.
The technique is visually based, with highly detailed images of malformed cells being analyzed against positive changes that could be produced by repurposing drugs that may have been developed for entirely different medical issues.
The company's high-tech approach, and some early successes that could lead to positive treatment pathways, have earned it the attention — and $84 million in investment — of some heavy-hitting venture capitalists, including one firm co-founded by former Twitter CEO Evan Williams.
The money has helped fuel Recursion's explosive growth, and the new 100,000-plus-square-foot digs at the Gateway will accommodate the company's laboratory space, offices and current roster of 84 employees, as well as the planned hiring of more than 200 additional staffers over the next couple of years.
The company's early returns on the research could accelerate as it builds an unprecedented map of our cellular selves.
"We're building a data set that's growing by 100,000 experiments every week," Gibson said. "This expanding body of information is allowing us to ask, and answer, some very complex questions about biology."
Salt Lake City's economic development team played a role in connecting Recursion with the space at the Gateway, according to Annie Davis, marketing manager for Salt Lake City's Department of Economic Development.
Davis' boss, Economic Development Director Lara Fritts, celebrated the company's move to downtown.
"We are so excited that a company like Recursion — and the work they are doing to reinvent how drugs are discovered and ultimately helping people in SLC and around the world — is growing their footprint in the city," Fritts said. "Being at the Gateway, surrounded by the infrastructure and amenities of downtown, will prove to be advantageous for this growing biotech company."