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BioRegion Real Estate: Jun 12, 2009


GlaxoSmithKline Opens Singapore Biologics Vaccine Plant, Creates Endowment Fund

GlaxoSmithKline this week opened a S$600 million ($414 million) vaccine plant in Singapore's Tuas Business Park, in the Asian country's western section. The plant will begin production of GSK's pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, designed to combat meningitis, pneumonia, and blood poisoning, in 2011 following audits from the US Food and Drug Administration and the World Health Organization.

The new 85,000-square-meter (914,932-square-foot) plant will employ about 200 people, and grow GSK's Singapore workforce, which now totals 1,000 employees. Company vice president Emmanuel Amory told that Singapore had been chosen as the site for GSK’s first vaccine plant in Asia due to what he called its highly skilled local workforce, following a decade-long plan by the government to boost expertise in biologics.

Another possible factor is the country’s lower labor costs for manufacturing than the US, Canada, or Europe. Data issued April 1 by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics concluded that as of 2007, the hourly compensation for manufacturing employees in Singapore was half that of their American counterparts.

During the June 9 opening ceremony, GSK CEO Andrew Witty called the plant "possibly the best vaccine facility anywhere in the world," while Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said it marked a significant victory for the republic, which has sought to dominate drug manufacturing within Asia, the Straits Times reported.

At the event, GSK announced that it was setting up a S$30 million endowment fund for graduate studies in sustainable manufacturing processes, green chemistry, and health policies. The prime minister said Singapore would chip in another $20 million to the fund, which he termed a symbol of cooperation between GSK and Singapore.

OSI Mulls Expansion Move Within New York, from Long Island to Westchester County

OSI Pharmaceuticals is considering a "major" relocation and expansion that would bring to New York's Westchester County research jobs the company had been expected to base at its current headquarters in Melville, NY, Long Island Business News has reported.

According to LIBN, Kathy Galante, OSI senior director of public relations, would not comment on specifics of the relocation but did say the company had yet to reach a decision on expansion plans for any of its offices in New York, New Jersey, or Colorado, and that the company would make its decision public “in the near future.”

OSI occupies space at the Broad Hollow Bioscience Park, on Long Island's Route 110 corridor, under a lease with the state of New York that expires in 2022. “OSI has not informed Farmingdale" of any decision to terminate the lease, Kathy Coley, Farmingdale State University’s director of communications, told the newspaper.

"We have not been approached by OSI," Salvatore Carrera, Westchester's director of economic development/real estate, told BioRegion News.

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RBJ: Greater Boston Lab Space Vacancy Rate Tumbles, Biomanufacturers Eye Suburbs

Greater Boston's laboratory vacancy rate tumbled during the first quarter to 9.7 percent from 14 percent, driven by expansions by life-sci giants such as Abbott, Novartis, and Genzyme, a market report from Boston commercial real estate firm Richard Barry, Joyce & Partners has concluded.

During the six months that ended March 31, tenants agreed to lease 673,000 square feet of laboratory space in greater Boston. Since mid-2003, tenants have taken up 4.4 million square feet of laboratory space, outpacing developers, who have built 3.7 million square feet, the report concluded.

Brendan Carroll, vice president of research at RBJ, told the Worcester Business Journal that his firm expects a continued positive demand trend, especially in Cambridge, Mass., which continues to dominate the region's lab market with 7.75 million square feet, compared with 3.12 million square feet in Boston and 4.4 million square feet in nearby suburbs.

One of those suburbs, Framingham, Mass., is where Genzyme is expanding a New York Avenue campus, in part by acquiring surrounding real estate since last year. “If they had been interested in looking around and seeing other options, there weren’t any,” Carroll told the newspaper.

But Genzyme and other companies have also discovered the difficulty of recruiting new employees; RBJ called the recruiting market "strained," saying that potential employees cannot easily move to greater Boston, one of the nation's costliest areas, to take life-sci jobs there without selling their homes elsewhere for less than they paid for them.

Given that, plus another consequence of the economic upheaval — an inability to finance construction of new facilities — Biotech companies “that really need the space are doing it in-house” by adding to existing campuses, Carroll told the Business Journal.

Two other signs of the economic times, according to RBJ: The availability of sublease space in greater Boston has increased during the first six months of this year, to 270,000 square feet, compared with 162,000 square feet during all of last year. Also, biotech companies are seeking to develop manufacturing operations in the suburbs — especially Devens and Worcester — using funding from the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Carroll told the newspaper.

Medical Device Maker Greatbatch Opens New Clarence, NY, HQ/Research Center

Medical device manufacturer Greatbatch has opened a 123,000-square-foot headquarters and research center in the Buffalo, NY, suburb of Clarence, NY, in the latest chapter of an expansion effort that has brought about 60 new research and engineering jobs to the region since 2006, the Buffalo News reported.

About 260 employees are based at the new facility, which includes a $10 million, 40,000-square-foot laboratory that occupies almost a third of the Wehrle Drive headquarters and research center. Thomas Hook, Greatbatch president and CEO, declined to disclose the total cost of the facility, except to say it was “tens of millions of dollars,” but lower than the $30 million Greatbatch spent to build facilities in Alden, NY, and Massachusetts.

“These are really the perfect jobs for Clarence.” said David Hartzell, the chairman of the Clarence Industrial Development Agency, which provided tax breaks for the new Greatbatch HQ. “We know we’ll never attract the next General Motors stamping plant."

Even before the auto industry shriveled, the region lost jobs following the decline of the local steel industry from the late 1970s through the early '80s.

Greatbatch told the News it attributed its growth to increased research spending — set for about $48 million this year, up 17 percent from 2008, accounting for 8 percent of sales; its stepped-up pursuit of patents, and its willingness to pay toward the education costs of employees and their families. Greatbatch pays the full education costs of employees with 10 or more years at the company; higher education costs equal to 10 percent for each year of employment if they were hired before 2003 but have less than 10 years; and an amount equal to tuition for a local state university if they were hired after 2003.

The new facility will house executive offices and allow Greatbatch to centralize its research and development team. The company was founded by Wilson Greatbatch as a medical battery manufacturer, but lately it has spun off into the technology solutions sector.

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Millipore Opens $3.5M Danvers, Mass., Biomanufacturing Facility

Millipore has opened a 33,000-square-foot biomanufacturing facility within its Cherry Hill Corporate Center building in Danvers, Mass., that will focus on manufacturing components of Millipore’s Mobius single-use disposable products, including components of the new Mobius FlexReady Solutions.

The facility will employ 120 people by year's end, and will share space with the Billerica-based company's "bioscience" division, creating a combined workforce by Dec. 31 of 268 people, Millipore told the Salem (Mass.) News.

"We are looking for assembly skills, people with attention to detail. ... It's light manufacturing work, and we have a great work force around Danvers to pick from," Chris Ross, director of manufacturing operations, told Lt. Gov. Tim Murray during a tour of the facility following the opening ceremony, the News reported.

The company said its new facility contains 12,500 square feet of Class 10,000 clean room space, and is in the process of becoming certified to the second-highest "gold" standard of the US Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system. The new space can be scaled up when Millipore decides it needs additional manufacturing capacity.

Clinical Trials Solutions Company C-TASC Relocates HQ from Baltimore to Owings Mills, Md.

Clinical Trials & Surveys, a clinical trials management software and professional services company also known as C-TASC, has relocated its corporate headquarters within Maryland, from Baltimore to its suburb of Owings Mills. C-TASC now occupies 17,000 square feet of office space at 10065 Red Run Boulevard — more than twice the size of its previous facility.

In a statement, the 40-person C-TASC said it needed to relocate to accommodate the addition of more than 10 full-time employees within the last year, as well as plans to continue to grow to at least 60 employees by February 2010.

The company said its job growth "is a result of the increased demand for C-TASC’s clinical trials services and technologies" — especially its Web-based data management application suite StudyCTMS — after the company won numerous new contracts to coordinate multi-center clinical trials, including its current work with the National Institutes of Child Health and Human Services, New York University, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and the Food and Drug Administration.

“After evaluating many different sites, Owings Mills provided us with the best location to fit our current needs while leaving us room to continue to grow comfortably throughout 2009 and beyond," Bruce Thompson, C-TASC's president, said in the statement.

Velesco Pharmaceutical Services Opens Manufacturing Plant, Office in Kalamazoo; Labs Move to Plymouth, Mich.

Velesco Pharmaceutical Services — a provider of analytical method development, drug formulation, stability testing and consulting services to biotech and pharmaceutical companies — this week announced it has opened a manufacturing plant and office in Kalamazoo, Mich., and has moved its Ann Arbor laboratories to the Michigan Life Science and Innovation Center in Plymouth, Mich.

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Velesco's 10,000 square foot office and manufacturing plant is located at the Kalamazoo Commerce Center. The plant will manufacture non-sterile CGMP clinical trial supplies for pharmaceutical companies in early-stage clinical trials.

The move will allow Velesco to reuse the space being vacated to accommodate the growth of its analytical and drug formulation laboratory services.

Velesco has promised state officials that its Kalamazoo expansion and Plymouth relocation — which carry a combined cost of $2 million — to create up to 35 jobs by 2014. In return, the company has been awarded a $431,536, seven-year state High Tech Mega tax credit by the Michigan Economic Growth Authority.

Velesco was launched in 2007, one of dozens of life sciences startup companies formed in the years since Pfizer's 2003 layoff of 1,200 professionals, in a consolidation move following its acquisition of Pharmacia.

Downtown Durham Wins One from RTP, as GrassRoots Biotechnology Expands

GrassRoots Biotechnology will move its offices from Research Triangle Park to the Venable Center in downtown Durham, NC — namely an 8,300-square feet space on the second floor of the Dibrell A warehouse building, the Triangle Business Journal has reported.

The relocation and expansion is designed to allow GrassRoots to grow its workforce to 25 employees.

The building is one of the former Venable Tobacco Co. buildings redeveloped into the Venable Center, a science campus owned by Scientific Properties.

Royal Society of Chemistry, GADORE Center USA, Center for Patient Interactive Research Open at Philadelphia's Science Center

The Royal Society of Chemistry and GADORE Center USA have established US offices at 3711 Market St., within Philadelphia's University City Science Center. Both are benefiting from the center's Global Soft Landing program, which assists international life-sci establishments with lab and office space, plus access to the center's full range of business support programs.

RSC is the largest organization in Europe for advancing the chemical sciences. GADORE, which stands for German-American Dialog on Renewable Energy, is a network for transatlantic exchange and dialog on renewable energy. GADORE Center USA is designed to assist German small and medium-sized businesses from the renewable energy industry that are examining their market chances in the USA, or for companies already planning to establish their own subsidiary in one or more of the 50 states.

In addition, The National Center for Patient Interactive Research has been launched at the center's Port business incubator, at 3701 Market St. CPIR said it will conduct research focusing on "unbiased" patient reported measurement of the comparative effectiveness of medical practices, both clinical processes and outcomes, with the goal of healthcare system cost savings.