OXFORD, UK — Located just a few miles from the pedestrian streets of Oxford, Begbroke Science Park is surrounded by serene English countryside.
Owned and operated by Oxford University, it’s the kind of place where Oxford Gene Technology founder Sir Edwin Southern can cycle to work, or where OGT’s R&D scientists can work peacefully on their latest batch of arrays for comparative genomic hybridization applications.
It’s also the site of two new buildings built by the university, one of which OGT has decided to lease to house its growing commercial and R&D personnel and infrastructure. According to CEO Mike Evans, OGT will move into its new, 11,800-square-foot facility in two months, at a time when array companies big and small are similarly expanding.
For instance, last year Affymetrix opened its Singapore manufacturing plant. Meantime, Illumina last week signed a 15-year lease for a new 84,000-square-foot facility currently under construction in its hometown of San Diego that will enable it to expand its laboratory and office workforce.
Evans told BioArray News during a site visit to Begbroke two weeks ago that OGT’s expansion is being driven by rapid growth in personnel as well as increasingly ambitious R&D projects.
“OGT is moving into purpose-built labs in order to consolidate all of its R&D and office-based personnel in a single location, develop its array-based product and services businesses and provide room for further expansion of the company,” he said.
According to Evans, the facility houses a series of R&D and production labs on the first floor and marketing and commercial offices on the second. It will replace OGT’s older offices, which are also located in the science park.
He declined to discuss the cost of the fit out or the lease, but said that it has been a “significant investment” for OGT.
Evans said that OGT required a new facility because of the rapid changes that the company has undergone in the past few years. “This move matches an increase in our activities and headcount,” he said, adding that the company has grown from two to 40 employees in the past five years.
OGT was founded in 1995 to protect Southern’s patent estate, and for the first 10 years of its existence it acted mainly as a licensing firm, helping to seed new companies with IP while defending the Southern patents in cases against major array players like Affymetrix (see BAN 6/16/2004).
In 2003, OGT founded three business units: OGT Services; Oxamer, which specializes in the electrochemical fabrication of arrays; and Tridend, which was based on mass spectrometry and was licensed to MassTag technologies earlier this year (see BAN 10/3/2006).
Since Evans joined the firm from GE Healthcare in 2005, OGT has forged ahead with its services business by designing a suite of prokaryotic arrays for chromatin immunoprecipitation-on-chip applications, and partnering with UK cytogeneticists, like Nigel Carter at the Wellcome-Trust Sanger Institute, to create CGH-based prenatal screening chips (see BAN 2/7/2007).
“This move matches an increase in our activities and headcount.”
Evans said two weeks ago that OGT will continue on that path and that it has new chips for CGH in R&D. He said that the company is also working on other projects and as of this August, all of these activities will take place under OGT’s new roof in Begbroke Science Park.
When OGT consolidates its operations in the new facility this summer it won’t be the only array company moving lab equipment and buying office furniture. Across the industry, firms like Affymetrix and Illumina are busy investing in new facilities to make way for growing manufacturing demand and expanding headcount.
Illumina’s new facility, for example, adds to an existing 110,000-square-foot space that the company leases at the University Towne Center submarket of San Diego. Ilumina is also looking to lease an international facility for manufacturing and R&D purposes to reduce its corporate tax rate.
CEO Jay Flatley said during the firm’s first-quarter earnings call earlier this month that Illumina plans to have the international facility up and running next year (see BAN 5/8/2007).
As for Affymetrix, the company bought its $5.5-million manufacturing plant in Singapore in 2005 to increase its chip-making capacity. Although the facility has been producing chips since last fall, Affy formally opened the plant last week.