Amgen Shuts Ireland Plant, Postpones Expansion; Mum on Report of Seattle Delay
Amgen announced last week it would postpone indefinitely its design and construction of an €800 million ($1.13 billion) bulk manufacturing plant in East Cork, Ireland, and cease all planning activity there by year’s end — but the biotech giant balked at confirming a published report that it had also delayed indefinitely a planned expansion of its Seattle campus.
Amgen said Oct. 3 in a press release its shutdown of the Irish facility would idle 79 employees, 65 of them based in Cork. “Based on current plans, Amgen will not have an active work site or work force in Cork in 2008,” Amgen stated, adding it would “maintain ownership of the site property in cooperation with Irish authorities.”
The shutdown announcement came six months after Amgen announced a two-year delay in the opening of the first of two planned phases for the plant, which was to have employed 1,100 people.
Amgen’s pullback is the latest of several blows to Cork’s economic development effort; earlier this year Pfizer and Motorola had announced layoffs. Last month, the International Monetary Fund predicted Ireland’s economic growth would slow down from last year’s 6.5 percent gain in gross domestic product to 4.3 percent this year and 3.2 percent in 2008. Ireland’s Central Bank and Financial Services Authority has predicted a 5 percent gain for 2007, and 4 percent next year.
"This decision is based purely on developments relating to Amgen's global business and is in no way reflective of the business environment in Ireland or of the high caliber staff we have hired,” Mark Sawyer, general manager and vice president of Operations for Amgen Technology Ireland, insisted in the release.
Amgen is scrambling to make up for lost sales of Aranesp, designed to combat anemia due to chemotherapy or kidney failure, seven months after disclosing a phase III clinical test linked the drug to greater risk of mortality, heart disease, and stroke in patients with anemic cancer. Soon after, the federal government imposed restrictions on the drug’s availability to Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries with cancer, though the US Food and Drug Administration last month voted 14-5 against reducing the hemoglobin target levels used to set dosages of Aranesp and another drug, Epogen.
Last month Amgen announced plans to lay off 1,500 workers — 675 at its Thousand Oaks, Calif., headquarters, 450 in West Greenwich, RI, and 375 scattered through the rest of the US and Puerto Rico — after 700 workers companywide accepted a voluntary buyout [BioRegion News, Oct. 1
The following day The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported that Amgen had delayed earlier plans to add 550,000 square feet of office, lab, and warehouse space to its 750,000-square-foot Elliott Bay campus in Seattle, a 40-acre facility also called the Helix campus. The newspaper cited “three people close to the project,” none of them by name.
“We have no announcement regarding Amgen’s Seattle site,” Pawlak said.
Bothell, Wash., Technology Corridor Designated as Innovation Partnership Zone
The Bothell (Wash.) Technology Corridor has been designated by Gov. Chris Gregoire as one of 11 Innovation Partnership Zones, geographic areas that have committed to promoting and developing the state’s regional economies.
The zone designation recognized the Bothell Biomedical Manufacturing Corridor for its establishment of a University of Washington Biotechnology and Biomedical Technology Institute, principally to support medical device/ultra-sound manufacturing. Zones receive special access to state funding and resources over a four-year period, after which designees must reapply to remain in the program.
Partners in the Bothell Zone include the city of Bothell, University of Washington Bothell, Cascadia Community College, Lake Washington Technical College, Snohomish County and King County Workforce Development Councils, King and Snohomish County Economic Development Departments, US Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Bainbridge Island), the economic development agency enterpriseSeattle, Snohomish County Economic Development Council, Washington Biotech and Biomedical Association, and UWB Student Entrepreneurial Center. Private-sector partners include Phillips Medial Systems, Nastech Pharmaceutical Company, Omeros Corporation, Pathway Medial Technologies, Sonus Pharmaceuticals, Vizx Labs, and Ekos Corporation.
Connecticut Innovations Provides $4M to Cara Therapeutics Toward Headquarters Move
Connecticut Innovations, a quasi-public organization, has awarded $4 million from its BioScience Facilities Fund to Cara Therapeutics for relocation of its corporate headquarters from the New York City suburb of Tarrytown, NY, to 41,000 square feet within 1 Parrot Drive in Shelton, Conn.
Cara is a 42-employee company specializing in developing therapeutics to treat pain and inflammation associated with various medical conditions, as well as developing new types of analgesics. Among pain areas being targeted by the company include acute postoperative, inflammatory, and neuropathic pain.
Alza, a Johnson & Johnson company, has agreed to license one Cara drug, CR665, while bioscience venture firms MVM Life Science Partners, Alta Biopharma Partners, and Ascent Biomedical Ventures have all invested in Cara.
North Carolina Agency Eyes New Alliances of Biotechs, Farmers In State’s Northeast
North Carolina’s Northeast Commission, a regional development group, has begun forming alliances intended to attract biotech companies to the region and wed area industry leaders with farmers interested in diversifying uses for their land — the purposes behind a stakeholders meeting held recently.
Represented at the meeting were the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, The Bio Network, North Carolina Department of Commerce, Northeast Economic Developers, community colleges, North Carolina State University, and Elizabeth City State University along with plant-extraction company Avoca.
The group is also working to develop a plan for researching new technologies and promote them to prospective biotech companies. The goal, the group said, is to replicate collaborations like the two-year-old venture in which California-based biotech Ventria helps grow rice in northeastern North Carolina with help from the Northeast Commission, NCSU, and the North Carolina Department of Agriculture.
A regional grant from the North Carolina Biotechnology Center along with funds from the Northeast Commission has enabled the region to examine the development of the biotech industry in the Northeast Region from scientific and economic perspectives.
RTI, a Raleigh-based independent research organization specializing in scientific research and technology development, is studying the region and will make recommendations for biotech development specific to North Carolina's Northeast. RTI will assess the strengths and challenges of the region and potential matches with efforts by biotech companies.
North Carolina's Northeast Commission is comprised of 16 counties: Beaufort, Bertie, Camden, Chowan, Currituck, Dare, Gates, Halifax, Hertford, Hyde, Martin, Northampton, Pasquotank, Perquimans, Tyrrell and Washington.
Mascoma, Univ. of Tennessee, Join to Build Switchgrass Cellulosic Ethanol Plant
Mascoma Corporation, a developer of advanced low-carbon energy biotechnology, has announced its intent to establish what it called the nation's first operating facility producing cellulosic ethanol utilizing switchgrass as feedstock.
Mascoma and the University of Tennessee plan to jointly build and operate the five million gallon-per-year cellulosic biorefinery in Monroe County, Tenn. Construction is expected to begin by the end of this year, with the facility set to become operational in 2009.
The partnership and facility plans stem from the Tennessee Biofuels Initiative, a research and business model designed to reduce dependence on foreign oil and provide significant economic and environmental benefits for the state’s farmers and communities. It includes $40 million for facility construction and $27 million for research and development activities.
The Tennessee project will be Mascoma’s third cellulosic biorefinery. Mascoma has begun construction on a multi-feedstock demonstration-scale biorefinery in Rome, New York, in partnership with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. Last year Mascoma announced plans to build one of the nation’s first commercial scale biorefineries using wood as a feedstock in Michigan; that project is being developed with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, Michigan State University, and Michigan Technological University.
Colorado BioScience Association Lauds Ritter for 2008 Economic Development Agenda
The Colorado BioScience Association has commended Gov. Bill Ritter Jr. for his crafting of an economic development agenda for 2008 that the industry group contended will spur the creation of new bioscience companies and help the state retain its more than 400 life sciences companies. The agenda included restructuring the corporate income tax to a system based on in-state sales, which the 380-plus member bioscience group said will make Colorado competitive with others states with significant numbers of technology-based jobs.
Ritter has also proposed creating a bioscience fund to assist early stage technologies; expanding the exemption from the business personal property tax for small companies with less than $7,000 in personal property; and creating incentives for employers who add at least 10 employees over six months, rather than the current span of one month.
Greenwood, Three Industry Leaders to Address 2007 Mid-Atlantic Bio Conference
James Greenwood, president and CEO of the Biotechnology Industry Organization, will be the keynote speaker at 2007 Mid-Atlantic Bio conference, to be held Oct. 24-26 at the Bethesda (Md.) North Marriott and Conference Center. The conference is collectively sponsored by industry group MdBio/Tech Council of Maryland, the Mid-Atlantic Venture Association, and the Virginia Biotechnology Association.
Greenwood will join a group of keynote speakers that include Nobel laureate Thomas Cech, president of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute; David Brennan, CEO of AstraZeneca; and James Mullen, chairman and CEO of Biogen Idec.
Greenwood is set to speak Oct. 25th. The following day, Cech, Brennan and Mullen will deliver plenary and closing luncheon addresses.
BIOTECanada, Schering-Plough Canada, CIHR Launch Health Research Awards
BIOTECanada and Schering-Plough Canada have joined with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to announce the creation of the CIHR BIOTECanada Schering-Plough Canada Fellowship, intended to support key research in the development of health innovations.
The winner will be the highest ranked postdoctoral fellowship candidate in Canada in the fields of immunology, infectious and inflammatory iseases, cardiovascular conditions, allergies, and respiratory problems, as determined by a peer-review process. The prize is worth $20,000 over two years and may be awarded in addition to the CIHR Fellowship Award.
The inaugural fellowship honoree will be announced at the CIHR Canadian Health Research Awards ceremony on Nov. 20 at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa.
Connect Names Four Life Science Finalists for Most Innovative New Product Awards
Connect, a San Diego-based organization dedicated to supporting entrepreneurs and small businesses in the life sciences and other technology industries, has named its finalists for its 20th annual Most Innovative New Product Awards luncheon. The event is set for Dec. 14 at the Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines hotel.
The award finalists were selected from approximately 100 entries representing a broad range of companies in seven categories, including Life Sciences — Diagnostics and Research Tools. The 2007 finalists are AviaraDx, Illumina, Invitrogen, and RegeneMed.