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BioBricks & Mortar: Feb 17, 2009


Michigan's Wayne County, Tech Town Plan Stem Cell Commercialization Center

Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano used his annual State of the County address last week to announce that his county would team up with Tech Town, the Wayne State University research and technology park in Detroit, to create a Wayne County Stem Cell Commercialization Center.

Ficano cited the recent approval by Michigan voters of Proposal 2, which amends Michigan's state constitution by ending restrictions on human embryonic stem cell research, declaring that "any research permitted under federal law on human embryos may be conducted in Michigan," subject to federal law and four stipulations [BRN, Nov. 10, 2008].

"Our Stem Cell Center will be the first of its kind in Michigan. We are creating a new biotechnology industry that will attract new companies, new jobs and alliances with researchers around the world," Ficano said during his address.

The center, Wayne County Deputy Executive Azzam Elder told Crain's Detroit Business after the speech, could attract between $60 million and $80 million in private investment, and should make TechTown the largest incubator in the country.

Elder told the Detroit Free Press the county could spend up to $10 million toward the business initiative: "What we're doing in Wayne County is trying to apply the glue to connect the dots for companies."

Biogen Idec Weighs New Building for 600 Administrative Employees at RTP, Among Options

Biogen Idec "has been talking with at least 10 real estate development companies in the area" about constructing a 180,000-square-foot office building that would accommodate more than 600 administrative employees on the company's Research Triangle Park campus – "one of several" options the biotechnology giant is considering, the Triangle Business Journal reported last week.

Biogen Idec, which is headquartered in Cambridge, Mass., would lease space within the building from the developer that would build it on the biotech company's 176-acre campus on Davis Drive, the newspaper reported, citing unnamed sources. The campus already has six Biogen Idec buildings that house 525 employees in drug manufacturing functions, and another 300 in patient services.

Biogen Idec spokesman Mike McBrierty said the build-to-suit building is among options the company is considering, but would not discuss the others. He told the News & Observer of Raleigh that the company has ongoing conversations with state economic development officials in Massachusetts, California, and North Carolina.

Biogen had sought for several years to build the administration office building, called Bio 26, on design plans at RTP. The company even built an 800-space parking garage in 2002 to accommodate the office expansion, but the garage is not being used.

The Business Journal quoted a Tri Properties executive as saying his firm has submitted a construction proposal, while another executive from Teer Associates, which has built Biogen's four RTP buildings since 1994, would not comment about the Biogen expansion project due to confidentiality agreements with the biotech company. Biogen also leases office space at the Imperial Center business park in Durham for its 300 customer call center employees – who would likely be relocated to the planned administration building, the newspaper reported.

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Bayer Schering Pharma to Build €100 million Global R&D Center in Beijing

Bayer Schering Pharma, the pharmaceutical division of Bayer HealthCare, said it will build a global R&D center in Beijing, at a cost of €100 million ($125.7 million) over the next five years.

China is the Bayer group's third largest market worldwide, and will become the third country after Germany and the US to host a Global R&D Center for Bayer Schering Pharma, which focuses on women's healthcare, cardiology, oncology and diagnostic imaging.

"Our aim is to systematically include Asian patients earlier in global drug development, breaking the tradition of 'US and EU first'," Kemal Malik, member of the board of management of Bayer Schering Pharma, head of global development and chief medical officer, said in a statement.

In addition, Bayer Schering Pharma will also launch a Global Drug Discovery Innovation Center in Beijing where company scientists will collaborate with Chinese partners. The pharma giant also announced that it is in advanced discussions with Tsinghua University on entering into a strategic partnership "to pursue research collaborations for the discovery of new disease-related targets in the core areas of Bayer's pharmaceutical research."

Genzyme Tops Off 86K Sq. Ft. Expaqnsion of Allston Landing Manufacturing Plant

Genzyme has "topped out" its Allston Landing biomanufacturing facility, under construction along the Charles River in Boston, by placing the last piece of steel of an 86,000-square-foot addition to the company's main protein manufacturing facility.

The biotechnology giant has expanded production at the Allston facility from four to six bioreactors in the last several years by fitting out two cell culture halls. The current expansion, slated for completion this spring, will add space for manufacturing support functions.

The expansion also includes a new, 26,000 square foot underground cogeneration plant that will generate steam to run the plant's process operations and will also produce electricity. ARC/Architectural Resources Cambridge designed the expanded facility, while Turner Construction serves as general contractor.

AURP Honors Sandia Sci/Tech Park, USF, Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine

At its 2008 Annual Awards of Excellence, held at the Renaissance Vinoy Resort & Golf Club in St. Petersburg, Fla., during its annual conference, the Association of University Research Parks presented awards to three research campuses:

• Sandia Science & Technology Park in Albuquerque, NM, won AURP's 2008 Outstanding Research/Science Park award, designed to recognize well-established research parks that excel in bringing technology from the laboratory to economically viable business activities. Sandia was established in 1998 as a public/private partnership to help New Mexico's economy by creating high-paying technology-based jobs and provide a location for companies commercializing technology developed at the adjacent Sandia National Laboratories. The 200-acre park has grown to 28 organizations employing 2,284 people.

• University of South Florida Research Park of Tampa Bay received the 2008 Emerging Research/Science Park Award, intended to honor a park in operation for fewer than five years. The park is home to more than 20 early-stage companies working in life sciences, engineering and software industries, as well as the Tampa Bay Technology Incubator, whose companies have total annual revenues of more than $4.3 million and have received more than $7.7 million in funding

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• Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, located in the Piedmont Triad Research Park in Winston-Salem, NC, captured the Innovation Award for its work in applying principles of regenerative medicine to develop new clinical therapies to treat human diseases and disabilities

Missouri House Approves Bill to Create BEST Districts, Blue Springs Tech Park

Missouri's House of Representatives has passed a bill that will create a science and technology park in Blue Springs, Mo., as well as allow local governments to establish Business-Education-Science-Technology or "BEST" districts, the Kansas City Business Journal reported.

House Bill 191 would fund BEST districts through sales and state income tax revenue generated by businesses within the district. In Blue Springs, that would include the proposed Adams Dairy Landing, a 600,000-square-foot retail project that RED Development LLC is developing at the southeast corner of Adams Dairy Parkway and Interstate 70.

Biotech/Pharma, Medical Devices Among 'Feasible' Uses for Winston Farm in Saugerties, NY

A consultant studying future potential uses for the 850-acre Winston Farm property in upstate Saugerties, NY, has included biotechnology and pharmaceutical business, and medical imaging/devices, as among feasible uses for the site's 370 buildable acres.

CH2M Hill, which is studying the farm's development future, concluded that the farm could attract a pharma or biotech user based on its proximity to the General Electric campus in Schenectady, NY, and the pharma cluster in northern New Jersey. A medical imaging and devices user could also work because of the New Jersey pharma cluster, Roger Pearson, director of planning for CH2M Hill subsidiary IDC Architects, told some 125 attendees at a recent public forum held to discuss the future of Winston Farm, according to the blog Saugerties.

MEMS/nanotechnology could also work, the consultant said, because of the site's location near a growing nanotech cluster in the state capital of Albany; while solar/photovoltaics was also deemed feasible given the presence in Saugerties of the New York State Thruway.

The parcel, at Routes 212 and 32 just west of the village of Saugerties, was the site of the Woodstock '94 concert. Over the past two decades, residents successfully turned back plans to transform the site into a landfill, and a casino.

Pearson said CH2M Hill has posted online a survey asking residents which potential uses for the Winston Farm would they favor the town exploring. If the public says yes, then, Pearson promised, an open process will begin. "There will be workshops, there will be much opportunity for further comment."

Following the CH2M Hill presentation, the blog reported, several residents expressed skepticism about the potential for high-tech business in Saugerties: "I don't know how high-tech they are thinking, but I'm thinking low-tech. Low-tech is what's going to give us our farm-fresh vegetables and low-tech is what's going keep the water around from not being polluted," said Shelli Lipton, who with husband Nathan Koenig are founders of the Woodstock Museum in West Saugerties, NY.

Not so Michael Vallarella, a resident and businessman: "I would just urge all of the residents of Saugerties to have an open mind, and to understand that [future use of Winston Farm] needs to be economically viable. It still needs to make money, and it still needs to provide jobs for the people of Saugerties."

Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica Plans $150M St. Joseph, Mo., Expansion

Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica has announced plans for a $150 million, five-year expansion of its animal pharmaceutical operation in St. Joseph, Mo., projected to create at least 124 jobs. The project — to be built on the main campus at the North Belt Highway and Gene Field Road — will include expanded manufacturing, more research and development activities, a new central administration building, and new technology throughout the campus.

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Boehringer has been in St. Joseph for 27 years and has more than 600 employees at facilities in the area. The new jobs will include skill levels from high-level scientists to technicians, said Dr. Gary Clapp, director of the Institute for Industrial and Applied Life Sciences. It also strengthens St. Joseph's position in the global animal health industry, he said.

Boehringer is in line to receive $735,000 from Buchanan County's economic development fund. Of the forgivable loans, $100,000 is tied to building the corporate headquarters. Another $135,000 will be given to the company to encourage employees to move to St. Joseph. In addition, Boehringer will be eligible for $100,000 if it chooses to buy the shell building in Mitchell Woods Business Park for a warehouse and distribution facility.

The St. Joseph City Council previously approved $160 million in Chapter 100 development bonds, which will provide tax incentives for the company. The bonds technically give the city ownership of the property and equipment built with the bonds. Because Boehringer will not own the property, the company will receive tax abatements totaling more than $13 million. The city will lease the project to Boehringer or a third party for 10 years, after which the company will take ownership.

In addition, Boehringer will receive $1.8 million under the Quality Jobs program — a fact cited by new Gov. Jay Nixon a week after the original announcement during a visit to the campus, at which he called for state lawmakers to pass a package of legislation aimed at increasing incentives for businesses [BRN, Feb.

"We have a long and successful history in St. Joseph and are committed to growing our business in this community," George Heidgerken, Boehringer Ingelheim's president, said in a statement. "I feel confident about our growth strategy and ability to compete globally as an animal health research and development and manufacturing facility."

Knowledge Park Unveils Expansion Plans; 14 More Buildings Totaling 650K Sq. Ft. Proposed

Officials of Knowledge Park in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, have unveiled plans to develop 14 more buildings totaling 650,000 square feet of space, intended to address the growing need for space by businesses in biotechnology as well as information technology, forestry, health care, and advanced learning sectors, the Daily Gleaner reported.

Conceptual drawings call for the addition of the buildings on land between Knowledge Park Drive and the Hugh John Flemming Forestry Complex. The pace of development will depend on demand, though construction of the first of those buildings is expected to be announced in six to eight weeks, the newspaper reported, since the park's existing vacancy rate stands at 2 percent.

The park, which is owned by Enterprise Fredericton, consists of three buildings — one each opened in 1999, 2001 and 2003.

"The difficulty we face at the moment is that often people come and want space immediately, but we're always in a position where we need the people before we can build the building," Laura O'Blenis, general manager of Knowledge Park, told the Daily Gleaner.

She cited Q1 Labs, a spinoff company from the University of New Brunswick that is moving to nearby Bishop Drive because it needed more space than was available.

Mayor Brad Woodside told the newspaper the plans gibe with Fredericton's ongoing effort to diversify its local economy away from reliance on the civil service: "We're extremely motivated in what we're doing and we won't let up."

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Ferring Pharmaceuticals, Research Institute Open R&D Facility in San Diego's Sorrento Valley

Ferring Pharmaceuticals and its affiliate Ferring Research Institute have opened in San Diego's Sorrento Valley a newly-expanded, 38,000-square-foot Sorrento Valley Boulevard facility to be dedicated to further development of peptide research and therapeutics. Swiss-owned Ferring has had its US outpost in San Diego since 1996.

The new San Diego research facility now houses expanded research laboratories for peptide medicinal chemistry, bioanalytical and distribution, metabolism and pharmacokinetics, molecular and cell biology, cell culture, in vitro and in vivo pharmacology.

Ferring bases 70 of its 3,200 worldwide employees in San Diego at Ferring Research Institute, which handles most of the company's drug research. Until now, it had been renting space on the General Atomics campus.

Ferring also used the occasion to recognize the recent approval by the US Food and Drug Administration of degarelix, a new once-a month, injectable prostate cancer drug for the treatment of patients with advanced hormone-dependent prostate cancer. Degarelix is the first peptide new chemical entity to be developed globally by privately-held Ferring following its discovery at the San Diego research institute. Ferring is preparing to launch degarelix in the US later in the first quarter.

EntreMed Lease Extension Slashes Rockville, Md. Biotech Company's Space, Rent Cost

EntreMed, a biotechnology company in Rockville, Md., has come to terms on a 12-month lease extension through February 2010 with landlord Red Gate III LLC that will reduce the space it rents for its headquarters at 9460 Medical Center Drive from 46,267 square feet to 8,554 square feet.

EntreMed's monthly rent will fall to $16,288 from about $85,000, the company said in a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

The lease extension also lets EntreMed use other parts of the premises at no additional cost.

RXi Pharmaceuticals Extends Lease Following Fall Expansion at Gateway Park in Worcester, Mass.

RXi Pharmaceuticals, a biopharmaceutical company formed to develop and commercialize therapeutics based on RNA interference, has extended its lease for two years at the Gateway Park campus in Worcester, Mass. The extension covers RXi's original 6,000 square feet lease at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute's Life Sciences and Bioengineering Center at Gateway Park, which the company has occupied since December 2007, as well as more than 800 additional square feet of space it took last fall.

The two-year extension on RXi's lease, executed on Jan. 23, is effective through August 2011.

RXi — co-founded by Nobel Laureate Craig Mello— also retains an option to move into 15,000 square feet at the next life sciences building planned for Gateway Park. That building is expected to commence construction later this year.

A joint venture of WPI and the Worcester Business Development Corporation, Gateway Park is planned as an 11-acre, mixed-use destination for life sciences companies and the people who work for them, and when fully developed will include five buildings totaling 500,000 square feet of flexible, adaptable lab and office space designed to meet the needs of research organizations and growing companies; 241,000 square feet of market rate, loft condominiums; and several planned retail establishments.

McGuire AFB, Stevens Institute of Technology Join Forces to Build Biofuel Power Plant/Refinery

McGuire Air Force Base and Hoboken, NJ,-based Stevens Institute of Technology have announced plans to co-develop a power plant and refinery that would generate biofuel on the Trenton, NJ, base from household garbage, grass clippings and other organic materials.

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US Reps. Rob Andrews (D-Haddon Heights) and John Adler (D-Cherry Hill) announced that the project could generate as many as 350 new jobs within a few years. Andrews joined Adler's predecessor, Jim Saxton of Mount Holly, in securing $3.2 million in defense funding for the power plant, which is expected to begin construction on the base this spring or summer — and which, the congressmen told the Burlington County Times, would require more funding to complete.

The facility would convert bio-waste materials such as garbage, grass clippings, and corn stalks into synthetic gas that would be generate energy to provide power to up to 40 homes. Water vapor would be the plant's only byproduct, the officials said. The plant fits into the US military's goal of generating at least 25 percent of its energy needs from renewable sources like biofuels, solar, and wind sources by the year 2025.

"What Capitol Hill is talking about doing in the future, we're already doing today in South Jersey, and we have a down payment on that," Andrews said in a statement.

Complete Genomics Doubles Mountain View, Calif., Office/Lab Space for 'Genome Center'

Complete Genomics, a Mountain View, Calif., provider of data allowing researchers to sequence the human genome for as little as $5,000, has doubled its office and laboratory space by leasing an additional 32,000 square feet, according to BRN sister newsletter In Sequence [Feb. 10].

The extra space will be used as a pilot "genome center" that is part of the company's effort to commercialize its services by providing customers in the academic and biopharmaceutical industry sectors to use the company's genome data in their research.

Complete Genomics has increased its headcount by about 20 percent since last October, to 120 staffers, and expects a "big increase" in headcount when the genome center opens this summer.

URI Opens Institute for Immunology and Informatics on Providence Campus

The University of Rhode Island has opened at its Providence Biotechnology Center a research institute focused on development of vaccines against AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, dengue fever and other diseases ravaging the developing world.

URI's new Institute for Immunology and Informatics will work on potential vaccines, and provide access to its technology to the global research community working on vaccine development for emerging infectious diseases. The institute will also pursue partnership opportunities at nearby hospitals, as well as Brown University and other life sciences companies in the city.

The institute is led by Annie De Groot, the CEO of EpiVax, a developer of computational immunology tools toward vaccine design; and a professor in URI's department of cell and molecular biology. She created the new institute with long-time associate Leonard Moise, director of vaccine research at EpiVax; URI professors Thomas Mather, a vector-borne disease researcher, and Marta Gomez-Chiarri, a fisheries researcher developing vaccines for fish; and De Groot's father Leslie DeGroot, an internationally recognized endocrinology researcher. The university said Greg Paquette, URI's director of biotechnology programs, will also help guide the institute.

The institute has defined its mission as improving human and animal health by applying the power of immunomics — defined as informatics, genomics and immunology — for the design of better vaccines, diagnostics, and therapeutics.

"The Institute for Immunology and Informatics represents a critically important opportunity for URI to have an essential science research presence in Providence," Jeff Seemann, dean of URI's College of the Environment and Life Sciences, said in a statement. "This is a positive step toward increasing the R&D capacity at the University, and it will serve to augment the life sciences activities taking place on our Kingston campus as well."

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URI last month opened on its Kingston campus the $59 million, 140,000-square-foot Center for Biotechnology and Life Sciences, a five-level facility whose top floor will remain unfinished until URI can raise the $5 million needed to complete the administrative offices and research space planned there [BRN, Jan. 26].

Fargo, ND, Packager/Distributor Completing Facility Expansion, With West Coast Clients in Mind

Clinical Supplies Management, a Fargo, ND, provider of packaging, labeling and distribution services for biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies nationwide and overseas, is completing work on a 15,000-square-foot addition to the 20,000-square-foot facility it has occupied since October 2007 at 342 42nd St.

The new space is designed to persuade potential clients – most on the West Coast – that CSM has the ability to take on new and additional projects, Don Berg, the company's president, told the Forum of Fargo, adding: "It's really helping us grow."

Privately owned Clinical Supplies Management has 48 employees, up from 26 three years ago, and its revenue has doubled in the past three years, Berg told the newspaper. The company's clients are typically small companies involved in early-stage medical testing that often lack the resources to package, label and distribute the drugs they're testing.

CSM is part of the Fargo-Moorhead's tiny medical services industry, which includes two other companies: PRACs offers pre-clinical, clinical, bioanalytical and statistical research services to serve the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and skin care industries; while Aldevron offers products and services for DNA vaccine and gene therapy.

Fire Causes Minor Damage to GreenHunter Biofuels Refinery Near Houston

GreenHunter Biofuels has confirmed that its 105 million gallons per year biofuel refinery near Houston sustained minor damages due to a small fire earlier this month, Biodiesel Magazine reported.

The cause of the fire was attributed to a mechanical seal failure on a circulation pump, which caused excessive heat, generating the fire. Firefighters reached the scene within about 10 minutes, and were able to extinguish the fire using the company's fire water system and the fire department's foam materials and equipment, according to the magazine.

GreenHunter has estimated repair costs were less than $50,000 and the facility's downtime was about three days. No injuries were sustained by GreenHunter personnel or firefighters during the incident, according to the company.

This is the second time in the past year that GreenHunter's biodiesel facility has been damaged. In September, the facility was shut down for more than two months due to water damage caused by Hurricane Ike.

GreenHunter is a wholly-owned subsidiary of GreenHunter Energy of Grapevine, Tex.

India's Kerala State to Develop Incubator, Tech Development Center

India's Kerala State Industrial Development Corp. will develop a Rs. 300 billion ($60.5 million) life sciences park within 260 acres at Veiloor Village near Thonnakkal, in Thiruvananthapuram.

The park will consist of an incubation center for startups and a technology development center for later-stage companies in biotechnology and nanotechnology, as well as research institutions and sci-tech academia. Facilities would include dry and wet Labs, a technology transfer center, computational biology labs, an IT center, a digital imaging center, a central instrumentation center, a virtual reality center, a business center, a bio-IT software and database library, an administrative center, and an intellectual property center.

KSIDC also envisions developing the park through a public-private Trivandrum Life Sciences Park Company, with equity contributions from the government of Kerala and private investors.

The planned tech park is designed to capitalize on proximity to other tech campuses, including Technopark and the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology.

The Scan

Panel Recommends Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine for Kids

CNN reports that the US Food and Drug Administration advisory panel has voted in favor of authorizing the Pfizer-BioNTech SARS-CoV-2 vaccine for children between 5 and 11 years old.

Sharing How to Make It

Merck had granted a royalty-free license for its COVID-19 treatment to the Medicines Patent Pool, according to the New York Times.

Bring it Back In

Bloomberg reports that a genetic analysis has tied a cluster of melioidosis cases in the US to a now-recalled aromatherapy spray.

Nucleic Acids Research Papers on SomaMutDB, VThunter, SCovid Databases

In Nucleic Acids Research this week: database of somatic mutations in normal tissue, viral receptor-related expression signatures, and more.