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Announcing Helix

We are excited to announce Helix, a joint venture partnership with GCI General Contractors providing superior laboratory and life sciences construction services to the Chicagoland area.

Seizing on Chicago’s rapidly expanding biotech industry, two prominent construction companies, San Francisco-based GCI General Contractors and Chicago-based BIG Construction, announced the launch of a new joint venture, Helix Construction. The arrival of Helix comes at a prime time as the city and region experience a surging demand for lab space and the potential to become a key biotech hub.

“Chicago is experiencing impressive growth in the biotech industry,” says Tony Iannessa, Co-Founder of Helix and CEO of BIG Construction. “As of last year, companies were seeking 658,000 square feet of lab space in the Chicago area, up from 175,000 square feet the previous year, and we expect that growth to continue exponentially. As Helix, we are incredibly excited to meet this growing demand by advancing the availability of new and retrofitted spaces in the Chicago region.”

Recently ranked among the top ten cities for biotech by Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News, Chicago is emerging as a thriving hub for the life sciences, with the Midwest seeing billions of dollars of investment to accelerate innovation and research. This year alone, the state of Illinois gave over $15 million to five universities and three ventures to build or renovate lab spaces in the Chicago area. An already fast-growing sector in recent years, theCOVID-19 crisis has only accelerated the need for both funding and available lab facilities, with life sciences companies seeking over three times more lab space than in previous years.

“We are thrilled to combine our expertise under the Helix umbrella to support this important sector here in Chicago,” says Jon Helman, Co-Founder of Helix and President of GCI General Contractors. “We know that Helix Construction will play a key part in making the Chicago region an important player in the life sciences industry.”

The two companies behind Helix bring a combined 34 years of successful project execution to the Chicago region, joining BIG Construction’s local real estate knowledge with GCI’s extensive experience in building cutting-edge lab facilities.

Employing a staff of over 200, GCI’s work in the Bay Area has focused on interiors, site renovation, infrastructure, labs and sustainable building. The firm has built over 1,000,000 square feet of life sciences space to date, contributing over 120 years of cumulative lab experience to projects for some of the largest biotech campuses, universities, and start-ups in the country. Recent projects include a fast-paced build-out of a Stanford University COVID-19 lab. GCI’s work has been recognized by clients with multiple awards, most recently as Supplier of the Year and Outstanding Supplier for Innovation by Genentech, Inc.

With a staff of 30 employees, BIG Construction has a strong reputation in Chicago for delivering high quality projects and utilizing proprietary tools to help clients make informed decisions. Specializing in interior built environments, BIG has executed a variety of projects, including the headquarters for GrubHub and Home Chef and multiple-use spaces for Motorola.

Helix has aggressive growth plans for the Chicago area, beginning with a $25 million new R&D facility for a research institution in Lake County, followed by a lab expansion and lab renovation in Skokie, and a $30million chemical lab facility in the northern suburbs.

“As Helix, we look forward to bringing a shared vision and powerful combination of expertise, innovation and community focus to the growing life sciences industry in Chicagoland.” says Iannessa.

About Helix Construction

Chicago-based Helix Construction is a joint venture partnership, bringing together San Francisco’s GCI General Contractors and Chicago’s BIG Construction to provide superior laboratory and life sciences construction services to the region. With a cumulative 34 years of experience in the construction industry, Helix combines local real estate knowledge with extensive lab expertise to execute complex projects and contribute to Chicago’s future as a biotechnology hub.


To find out more about Helix Construction, visit

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