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BioRegion Real Estate: Mar 23, 2009


Pfizer Markets for Sale La Jolla, Calif., Incubator Building, With Three Tenant Companies Inside

Pfizer has put its La Jolla, Calif., incubator building up for sale, in one of several moves to restructure its real estate portfolio and cut costs in light of its planned $68 billion acquisition of Wyeth, the San Diego Business Journal reported.

The 26,600-square-foot building, known as CB-7, is listed without an asking price, and has been up for sale since late last year, Cushman & Wakefield broker Steve Rosetta told the Business Journal.

The incubator building is one of eight at Pfizer's 33.5-acre La Jolla campus, and houses three early-stage biotech companies: Fabrus, Wintherix and RGo Bioscience.

The 30 employees of the three companies test products and ideas using equipment and supplies provided by Pfizer under an equity-share arrangement. Life sciences startups chosen for the incubator receive $2 million a year and access to equipment, lab space, and administrative support in exchange for Pfizer's right to purchase the businesses or their technologies. Beginning in 2007, Pfizer agreed to invest $10 million in the program over five years.

As part of the building's sale, Pfizer said it was seeking a lease-back arrangement to allow the three companies to remain in place. Those three may be joined by two additional fledgling companies with which the incubator is in talks, said Mark Benedyk, who heads the facility. He declined to name the prospective tenants.

Osman Kibar, CEO of Wintherix, and Thomas Hermann, co-founder of RGo, told the newspaper they were unaware of the incubator's planned sale. Those companies and Fabrus are set to graduate from the facility by January, though their contracts also include six-month extension options.

North Brunswick, NJ, Company to Open New 15,000 Square-Foot Research Facility

Chromocell is set on March 25 to celebrate the opening of a new 15,000 square-foot research and development facility at the New Jersey Economic Development Authority's Biotechnology Development Center, on the campus of the Technology Centre of New Jersey in North Brunswick, NJ.

New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine is expected to lead dignitaries in marking completion of the new R&D facility, set to employ 80 researchers and support staffers. Founded in 2003, Chromocell focuses on drug discovery programs in pain relief, anxiety and respiratory disorders.

Chromocell also maintains an internship program designed to give students from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and other academic institutions an opportunity to gain lab experience in an industry setting.

The company has grown from a three-person operation located in a single, 800 square-foot laboratory at the Commercialization Center for Innovative Technologies, on the campus of the Technology Centre of New Jersey.

Other dignitaries set to attend are Günter Blobel, Nobel laureate and co-founder of Chromocell; Christian Kopfli, CEO of Chromocell; Caren Franzini, CEO of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority; Debbie Hart, president of BioNJ; and Kambiz Shekdar, chief scientific officer of Chromocell.

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Mack-Cali Completes Leases with New Jersey, New York Biopharma Companies

Two suburban New York biopharma businesses have completed lease deals for spaces at properties owned by Mack-Cali Realty, a publicly-traded real estate investment trust.

In Parsippany, NJ, Wockhardt USA — a subsidiary of India-based pharmaceutical and biotechnology company Wockhardt — has relocated to 12,000 square feet at Mack-Cali's 13-acre Waterview Corporate Center.

And in Hawthorne, NY, Acorda Therapeutics has signed a three-year renewal of its lease for 46,000 square feet at 15 Skyline Drive, within Mack-Cali's Mid-Westchester Executive Park. The building is fully leased.

Kodak Moments: Biotechs Eye Pieces of Imaging Giant's Rochester, NY, Industrial Campus

Four separate biotechnology companies have toured lab space available for lease within the 900-acre Eastman Business Park industrial campus being marketed by imaging giant Eastman Kodak, the Democrat and Chronicle of Rochester, NY, has reported.

Kodak has buildings totaling more than 1.7 million square feet available for sale or lease, including a site on St. Paul Street that is about 50 percent occupied by ITT's space systems division, as well as Building 642 along Lee Road in neighboring Greece, NY, which is partially occupied by the Ortho-Clinical Diagnostics division of Johnson & Johnson. The company also is looking for parties interested in nearly 4.5 million square feet of office, manufacturing, and warehousing space available in other buildings. And it is marketing nine separate parcels of empty land as ready for construction, according to the Democrat and Chronicle.

Kodak is marketing available sites at Eastman Business Park, formerly Kodak Park, through commercial real estate brokerage CB Richard Ellis, as well as with help of a few tools — namely a 3-D virtual simulation created by the Rochester engineering and planning firm Bergmann Associates, and a Website that went live about a month ago, David Stoklosa, Eastman Kodak's director of Rochester business development and facilities, told the newspaper.

"I have more leads of people investigating getting into the park since I started a year and a half ago," including representatives from industries as varied as food production and information technology, Stoklosa told the newspaper.

With a Lit Golden Crucible, Foundation Inaugurates Qatar Science and Technology Park

Qatar Science & Technology Park, the Qatar Foundation's research accelerator, was formally opened last week in an inauguration ceremony attended by 1,200 leaders of science, business and government from in and outside Qatar. Presiding were the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, and Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al Missned, chairperson of the Qatar Foundation.

To mark the inaugural moment, a golden crucible was presented to the emir and Sheikha Mozah, who then placed it on a plinth. The illumination of the crucible was intended to symbolize the renaissance of science in Qatar.

"As we have planned for our national vision by the year 2030, we are confident that QSTP as a component of [the] Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, will be a tributary for human development, an incubator of creativity and innovation, a safe haven for free scientific research, a magnet for national and international expertise, and a space where cultures and ethnicities integrate," the emir said.

QSTP's 21 partner companies have committed a combined $225 million of R&D investment at QSTP, while Qatar Foundation itself has invested $600 million building the science park.

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Michigan Economic Growth Authority OKs $10.9M in Incentives for Biodefense Firm's Lansing Expansion

The board of the Michigan Economic Growth Authority last week approved a $10.9 million tax break for Emergent Biodefense Operations, the producer of BioThrax — the only vaccine approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for the prevention of anthrax infection.

Emergent's $10.9 million in tax incentives is tied to an expansion of the company's operations in Lansing. That expansion would create 93 direct jobs, part of the 302 overall jobs MEGA has projected for the project.

Lansing is competing with sites in California and Maryland, and the company has yet to announce where it will proceed with its expansion.

Emergent focuses on the development, manufacture and commercialization of vaccines and immune-related therapeutics

26-Acre Portland (Me.) Technology Park, Including Biotech Sites, 'Poised for Takeoff'

Portland, Me., officials are finalizing plans for a 26-acre business park specializing in biotechnology, hoping to diversify the city's economic base and provide a campus-like environment to attract new companies to the area, according to the Portland Press Herald.

"We are poised for takeoff," Portland Economic Development Director Greg Mitchell told the newspaper last week.

The site, known as the Portland Technology Park and located just off Exit 47 on Rand Road, will have nine building sites available. The nine can accommodate buildings from 6,000 to 20,000 square feet. Interested businesses would buy lots condominium-style, owning their lots but paying fees toward upkeep in common areas owned by the city.

The city tentatively plans to sell the lots for between $20 and $30 per square foot, Hanig said. There is a total of 120,000 square feet available, and the business park is expected to create 400 jobs. If successful, Portland Technology Park would mark the city's first time owning and managing a business park.

Mitchell told the Press Herald the city hopes to compete for new companies seeking proximity to, and a lower cost of business than, Boston. He said no tenants have been selected, though the city is coordinating a region-wide marketing campaign to attract new biotech companies to the area, touting the new technology park and other regional advantages. Representatives from Portland, South Portland, Westbrook and Scarborough will attend the Biotechnology Industry Organization's 2009 BIO International Convention set for Atlanta from May 18-21.

"We want to get Maine's name out there," Nelle Hanig, a business development representative for Portland, told the newspaper. "When people think of Maine, they think of blueberries and lobster, but we want them to realize we have world-class institutes, we're near Boston and we have this (biotech) cluster here."

The business park sits on part of a 40-acre lot purchased in 1999 for $1.7 million from the Snyder and Barris families. Because the remainder of the lot is designated as resource protection land, the city plans to develop trails and public access to the property, as well as linking it to an adjacent 200-acre protected area.

Mitchell told the Press Herald the city expects to hear within a few weeks whether Portland and the city of Westbrook, Me., will get a $1.4 million federal grant from the US Economic Development Administration, to be matched by the city, toward the cost of roads and utilities leading to the project site.

Hanig said they hoped to put the project out to bid by December or next January.

University of Rochester (NY) Medical Center Freezes Action on Research Expansion

The University of Rochester Medical Center has put on hold its plans to complete a 150,000-square-foot research building until state funding for the project comes through, the Democrat and Chronicle of Rochester (NY) reported.

Construction on the $76.4 million Clinical and Translational Science Building, slated for completion next summer, will wait until after the state has formally signed off on its $50 million commitment to the project — something expected in the next two to three months, according to the newspaper.

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The medical center has had "repeated assurances that support for (the research building) project is on its way," UR President Joel Seligman told the Democrat and Chronicle.

In October, medical center and state officials participated in a ceremonial groundbreaking for the building. "With the volatility that exists at the New York state budget level, our biggest concern is (what will happen) despite the commitments that have been made," the medical center's Chief Financial Officer Michael Goonan told the newspaper. "We won't begin construction until we know the funds are ready to draw down."

The research building, to be built on Crittenden Boulevard and connected to the School of Nursing's Helen Wood Hall, will house more than 600 scientists, physicians, nurses, statisticians and other workers from across the university campus, as well as be a hub of the Upstate New York Translational Research Network, which includes 10 biomedical study programs.

Also up in the air: A $262 million, six-story hospital expansion that was expected to alleviate overcrowding in the area's emergency rooms. Due to the economic upheaval, Seligman said, the university would no longer be able to borrow the $250 million needed for construction of the Pediatric Replacement and Imaging Sciences Modernization, or PRISM, and instead would seek a loan of $80 million to $90 million this year. The project is still in the university's long-term plans, he added.

The ongoing financial market turmoil also explains why since November, medical center officials have cut $39.8 million from its $1.9 billion annual budget and laid off 36 of its 13,000 employees, though some were reassigned to new positions. Officials also eliminated all overtime not required for patient care, placed a moratorium on giving staff new job titles that come with raises, and implemented a stringent review process for approving new positions and filling vacant jobs.

Forma Therapeutics, Experimental Therapeutics Centre of Singapore Unite to Develop New Drugs

Forma Therapeutics, a Cambridge, Mass., cancer therapy developer, and the Experimental
Therapeutics Centre of Singapore have announced a collaboration agreement intended to use FORMA's platform to discover compounds for further development by ETC. Financial terms were not disclosed.

ETC is funded by Singapore's Agency for Science, Technology & Research, or A*STAR.

"We share a commitment to advancing early-stage science and translating those discoveries into practical clinical applications. This collaboration is therefore mutually beneficial, potentially bolstering Singapore's biomedical pipeline of the future, while also further validating the productivity and efficiency of Forma's proprietary drug discovery technologies in identifying new, promising compounds," Forma CEO Steven Tregay said in a statement.

UK Visualization/Bioinformatics Startup Chooses San Diego Suburb for Expansion

Bioinformatics company Dotmatics, a UK-based scientific visualization and bioinformatics software developer, has opened an office in the San Diego suburb of Del Mar, Calif., as part of an expansion that targets the US life sciences market, according to Xconomy San Diego.

"Now with an expanding team we were finally at a point where we needed a US office," Dotmatics CEO and co-founder Stephen Gallagher told Xconomy San Diego via e-mail. "We always had an eye on San Diego because it would help cover a wider territory and because of the great history of biotechnology in the area. Another real attraction was the mix of small biotech, start-ups, major pharmaceuticals, research institutes and contract research companies, all of whom are our potential customers or partners."

San Diego also has better beaches than Boston, Gallagher added with an emoticon smile.

Gallagher co-founded Dotmatics in 2005 as a spin-out from the pharmaceutical company Merck Sharp & Dohme. The company initially worked with small biotechs, but discovered that big pharma also sought its services, he told the online news outlet.

The Scan

Omicron-Focused Vaccines

The New York Times reports both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna have launched trials of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines targeting the Omicron variant.

Nature Papers Present Cloud-Computing Analysis Approach, Transcription Factor With Role in Bacterial Genome Organization

In Nature this week: researchers describe the free, open-source cloud-computing infrastructure Serratus and more.

Time to Act

A new report urges the UK to consider regulations to protect against the misuse of genomic technologies, according to the Guardian.

Fulgent Seeking Defamation Suit

Fulgent Genetics says it plans to sue Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva for defamation, the Los Angeles Times reports.