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BioRegion Real Estate: Mar 16, 2009


Burrill, Elk Run Developer to Co-Fund Startups, Draw Companies to Minnesota Biopark

The developer of the BioBusiness Park at Elk Run in Pine Island, Minn., confirmed local news reports last week when it announced it had joined with biotechnology investor-analyst G. Steven Burrill to launch a fund aimed at financing potential life-sciences tenants of the 200-acre campus, from established companies to spinouts of the state’s universities and research institutions.

Tower Investments said its partnership with Burrill was designed to spawn “a private equity/venture capital fund” to support development of new technologies developed at the Mayo Clinic, the University of Minnesota and unnamed private entities. The fund is also designed to draw biotech and biomedical businesses to the state of Minnesota and Elk Run, a 2,325-acre mixed-use development that includes the biopark.

The March 12 announcement confirmed news of the collaboration disclosed last month by Gov. Tim Pawlenty to Minnesota Public Radio Network — but provided little new information, and few specifics, about the venture. The announcement didn’t even confirm the number of startups envisioned to be funded, or the size of the fund, reported at 30 startups and $1 billion, respectively, by the Star-Tribune of Minneapolis last month.

"The real opportunity is to attract developers from around the world. We view this not just as a regional economic-development play for southeastern Minnesota, but as a major opportunity to advance the prediction and prevention of disease,” Burrill, CEO of San Francisco-based Burrill & Co., told Fierce Biotech.

“Five years ago the power of money wasn't as attractive as it is today," he added. "When you combine this funding with the land available at Elk Run, the business community, the device industry, the food industry, and the IT industry all present in Minnesota, it doesn't become as much of a reach as it may seem."

Neither Burrill’s quoted comments nor the announcement elaborated on when the fund would begin operation, how much funding it would make available, or the types of startups it would focus on funding. A Tower spokeswoman was unable at deadline to answer questions about the partnership, while a Burrill representative did not return messages from BRN.

"Capital is something that's been a missing ingredient, and that's kind of the final piece of infrastructure to kind of make things happen," Gary Smith, president of the Rochester Area Economic Development, told the Post-Bulletin. "Now it'll be a matter of picking the right opportunities for them to invest in."

Chandler, Ariz., Officials Consider Biotech Incubator on Ex-Motorola Campus

Chandler, Ariz., officials are studying plans to transform a 152-acre property on the city’s Price Road technology corridor formerly occupied by Motorola into a biotechnology business incubator, the East Valley Tribune of Mesa reported.

Biotech "is one of our areas where we'd like to see some more development in town," Pat McDermott, assistant city manager, told the Tribune.

The site at 2501 S. Price Road, between Germann and Queen Creek roads, includes the 400,000-square-foot facility where Motorola developed its Iridium satellite telephone network. Motorola announced in June 2007 that it was moving operations to a location in Tempe and would put the Chandler site up for sale.

Chandler Mayor Boyd Dunn introduced the idea of using a portion of the site as a business incubator in his State of the City address earlier this month. The site is the largest single area left in Chandler that could be devoted for nurturing startup biotech businesses, Dunn told the newspaper, adding that he would like the city to have an active role in fostering new biotech businesses.

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According to the Tribune, city officials have raised the incubator proposal with some of the developers who have expressed interest in buying the Motorola site, he said. Officials have examined established business incubators elsewhere in the nation as well, Dunn said.

Another potential site for a bio incubator, Dunn said, was the Chandler Airpark industrial section near the Chandler Municipal Airport. The area is home to CRO Covance Laboratories.

Pat McDermott, assistant city manager, told the newspaper Chandler would not buy the Motorola site, but would ask the buyer for the right to use possibly 10,000 square feet of the space for the incubator, Dunn said. In return, he said, the city would then remodel the space into labs and offices for biotech firms.

Fraunhofer USA Wins $12M Federal Grant to Help Expand Newark, Del., Facility

A team consisting of iBioPharma and Fraunhofer USA’s Center for Molecular Biotechnology has won a $12 million Phase II grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency for an accelerated pharmaceutical manufacturing program that would use technology developed for iBioPharma by Fraunhofer USA CMB.

The program is designed to rapidly produce safe, effective vaccines against any rapidly emerging threat agent. In 2008, the team successfully completed optimization and feasibility studies under DARPA’s Phase I program. The goal of Phase II will be to demonstrate the capability to generate three million doses of vaccine within 12 weeks of an outbreak at low cost, using a production platform deemed to be highly resilient and controlled.

Fraunhofer is the only company in the world with this technology, which was developed in Newark. Fraunhofer expects its workforce in Delaware to grow by 50 percent over the next three years, the Newark Post reported.

iBioPharma formally announced the grant March 11, two days after Gov. Jack Markell celebrated the DARPA decision by touring Fraunhofer USA CMB, within the Delaware Technology Park.

“This is exactly the kind of innovative and responsive economic development we want to see in our state as we move towards the future,” Markell said, according to the Post.

UK CMO Penn Pharma Eyes 133 New Jobs in Wales Expansion

UK contract-manufacturing organization Penn Pharmaceuticals has announced a £12 million ($16.8 million) expansion of its facility at Tafarnaubach Industrial Estate in Tredegar, Wales.

The project is expected to create 133 new jobs over the next five years, preserve 100 existing jobs, increase manufacturing capacity, and improve efficiencies at the plant.

Penn’s project is being funded by the Welsh Assembly Government’s Single Investment Fund.

Penn produces small volumes of medicine, with clinical trials in mind, and also provides drug-development services such as formulation and analytical development, to pharmaceutical companies in the UK, EU, and US.

Penn said in a statement it embarked on the expansion after concluding it “is now near the limits of further growth in its existing premises.” The company had opened an off-site storage and distribution facility near Tredegar, and also extended and refurbished its laboratories.

Short-term, Penn will move existing stores to a site at Oakdale to allow the expansion of its clinical trials supplies and manufacturing facilities. “Further redevelopment phases will include the extension of existing buildings, the relocation of the staff restaurant and the refurbishment of laboratories,” the company said.

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University of Delaware, Chrysler Still in Talks to Create Technology Park

The University of Delaware remains in talks with Chrysler to redevelop its shuttered 270-acre assembly plant in Newark, Del., into a new technology park that would house life-sci and other tech businesses spun out from the school, university President Patrick Harker told the News Journal of Wilmington.

Harker told the newspaper the park would emulate the existing Delaware Technology Park, which houses 54 companies and is anchored by UD's Delaware Biotechnology Institute. The tech park has been credited with helping create 16,000 jobs, winning $250 million in grants, and generating $8 million a year in taxes.

Harker said the new technology park would focus on drawing businesses focused on rehabilitation medicine, alternative energy technologies, and financial services. He denied rumors cited by the News Journal that the site would be used instead for athletics.

The park also could serve as a home for federal agencies and private companies working with the US Army's Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, Harker added.

Key issues include the price of the land, who will clear the land for new construction, and who will pay to clean up any environmental contamination.

"This is something we're very committed to doing," Harker said. "If it's not at the Chrysler site, then we'll find another way of making this happen."

HandyLab Expands Within Pittsfield Township, Mich., Building

HandyLab, a maker of clinical diagnostic testing products, has expanded into all of 5230 S. State St. in Pittsfield Township, Mich., after adding 4,500 square feet to its leased space there, the Ann Arbor News reported.

HandyLab spokeswoman Christine Allensworth told the newspaper the expansion was needed because the company is growing. HandyLab now employs 45 people.

Bluestone Realty Advisors chief executive Neal Warling brokered the deal on behalf of Eaton Corp., which subleased the additional space to HandyLab. Brian Piergentili, senior vice president at UGL Equis, handled HandyLab's side of the transaction. Launches Online Commercial Real Estate Property Marketplace has launched an online marketplace intended to connect owners of industrial properties and other commercial real estate to buyers, tenants, managers, brokers, lenders and insurance providers. said it assists owners and managers in property transactions with financial modeling, property website design, signage, marketing flyers, buyer and tenant databases, and access to marketing tools.

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