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BioRegion Real Estate: Jun 26, 2009


Report: Disgruntled Asterand Ponders Move from Detroit's Tech Town to Ann Arbor, Mich.

Asterand, the anchor tenant at Detroit's TechTown, is considering relocating from the incubator and technology park associated with Wayne State University to Ann Arbor, Mich., about an hour's drive west, and developing affiliations with the University of Michigan, Crain's Detroit Business reported.

Martyn Coombs, CEO of the tissue bank company, told the newspaper he has rescinded a tentative renewal lease agreement with TechTown, and retained two real estate brokers to scour for sites in Ann Arbor, after concluding that WSU President Jay Noren had neglected the company despite it being the best performer on the London Stock Exchange last year.

“We could benefit from the help of a good research university. I'm not sure Wayne State is interested. We are looking for top-notch research partners and have reached out to Wayne State with little success," Coombs said, adding: "I assume the University of Michigan would be interested.”

Neither Noren nor Stephen Forrest, UM's vice president of research, could be reached by the newspaper, though a spokesman for WSU, Michael Wright, told Crain's: "TechTown is trying to become a center of excellence in biobanking, and Asterand is certainly important for that … We value the relationship with Asterand. We certainly hope we can continue to engage with them and to keep them.”

One reason for the perception of neglect, Coombs told the newspaper: Asterand leases its space at $27 a square foot, a rate he said was over-market and only served to help subsidize other TechTown operations. TechTown sought to address that concern, he acknowledged, by offering Asterand $25.50 a square foot.

Coombs acknowledged that getting a better lease rate is one reason for the potential move, but told Crain's his major motivation is his feeling of neglect. Coombs hopes to decide on a move by the end of September.

Victoria Blanc, general manager of Asterand's US operations, wrote a letter expressing concerns about the relationship to Noren last Dec. 15. A response was written on March 2 by John Davis, the school's CFO and vice president for finance. Blanc followed up with another letter to Noren on April 3 asking for a meeting, but said she had yet to get a response.

Blanc told the newspaper one attraction Ann Arbor offered Asterand was the prospect of lower rent; she projected about $21 to $22 per square foot, as UM prepares to occupy the former Pfizer campus it recently announced it would acquire [BRN, Dec. 22, 2008].

Coombs offered another attraction of Ann Arbor: the prospect that Asterand may acquire a company now based there.

Coombs disclosed to Crain's another sticking point between his company and TechTown — what the company perceives as Wayne State's not doing enough last year to help it land a $4 million contract, administered through the university, with the National Institutes of Health
to run its Perinatal Research Branch. That contract instead went to Maryland-based Fisher Bioservices, which recruited away an Asterand employee, Abdalla Doleh, to oversee the NIH perinatal branch.

Blanc told the newspaper the real estate brokers have been active “for a period of months” targeting Ann Arbor and looking elsewhere in Southeast Michigan, as well, including the I-94 corridor.

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Asterand occupies 14,000 square feet on TechTown's fifth floor, about half of which is office space and half wet and dry labs. Sixty of the company's 90 employees work at TechTown, while most of the rest are based in England. The company's lease expired almost a year ago, Blanc said.

Skanska Signs Contract to Build $220M Nemours Children's Hospital in Orlando, Fla.

Skanska has signed a SEK 1.7 billion ($220 million) contract to provide construction manager at-risk services to build Nemours Children's Hospital in the Medical City section of the Lake Nona mixed-use master planned community in Orlando, Fla.

The 630,000-square-foot hospital, to be built on a 60-acre site, will feature research centers as well as a 95-inpatient bed tower, emergency department, diagnostic and ambulatory programs, education and research centers, and an outpatient clinic on a 60-acre greenfield site. The facility is designed to allow Nemours to provide access to a full line of specialty services, and improve pediatric care to the region.

The facility will seek to achieve certification under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design energy efficiency rating system, developed by the US Green Building Council. Site work will commence in June with a scheduled completion date of June 2012.

Stanley Beaman & Sears is the architect of record, while Perkins+Will serves as associate architect.

Dendreon Plans Phased $50M Expansion of New Jersey Plant Built in 2006

Dendreon is looking to expand its therapeutic biotechnology processing facility in Morris Plains, NJ, at a projected cost of $50 million, the company said this week in a regulatory filing.

The Seattle biotech has hired the Henderson Corp. to manage construction of a two-phase expansion of its Morris Plains facility, designed to process the immune cells of patients to boost their ability to fight cancer, before those cells are re-infused into them, the Seattle Times reported.

Additional quality control laboratories, data center, training areas, infrastructure and offices are scheduled to by completed by mid-December. The final phase, with additional manufacturing clean-room work stations, production support areas, warehouse, infrastructure and offices, is to be substantially complete by April 23, 2010, the newspaper reported.

Dendreon finished the initial build-out of the 158,000-square-foot facility in July 2006, before its application to the US Food and Drug Administration for the Provenge prostate-cancer immunotherapy was tabled to await additional clinical results.

BioMed Realty Trust Closes New $18M Loan Secured by San Diego Building

BioMed Realty Trust has closed on a new $18 million loan secured by the laboratory developer's 9865 Towne Centre Drive property in San Diego, an 84,000-square-foot building that is fully leased to Illumina.

Completed in the second quarter of 2008, 9865 Towne Centre Drive earlier this year received certification from the US Green Building Council for the building's core and shell meeting the silver standard of the LEED energy efficiency rating system.

Illumina leases a total of approximately 193,000 square feet through October 2023 at the Towne Centre Drive campus in San Diego.

In a statement, Kent Griffin, BioMed's president and chief financial officer, named the lender as Washington Capital Management and praised it for its participation.

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Bill Before Congress Could Aid Redevelopment of Ex-South Weymouth (Mass.) Naval Air Station

The redevelopment of the former South Weymouth (Mass.) Naval Air Station into a mixed-use campus that would include a 2 million-square-foot commercial complex designed to accommodate a pharmaceutical company or biotechnology firm could benefit from a bill pending in the US Congress that would permit the federal government to convey the property titles of surplus military bases at no cost to local communities, the Weymouth News reported.

The House Armed Services Committee on June 18 approved the bill, which will provide the Department of Defense with authority to negotiate land conveyances with local governments, in the hope that they will redevelop more quickly military sites shut down through the Base Realignment and Closure, or BRAC, process.

The bill has been included in the National Defense Authorization Act, which passed the US House of Representatives on Thursday, but which President Obama has threatened to veto because the measure includes $369 million for more F-22 fighter jets and $603 million for the alternative engine program for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program — a pair of programs he and Defense Secretary Robert Gates have denounced as wasteful.

"As we grapple with the economic recession and troubles in the housing market, the Congress now realizes that it is important to ease the financial burden of local communities in redeveloping former military bases, such as the South Weymouth Naval Air Station," said US Rep. William Delahunt (D-Quincy), a key proponent of the bill, in a written statement. "This legislation will help with the redevelopment of the base and the SouthField project, which is so critical to the economic development of the South Shore."

SouthField, a project of base developer LNR Property, calls for building 2,855 housing units over 14 years, through a mix of housing types that include rentals, apartments, condos, townhouses, single-family homes, and senior apartments. The plan also includes a hotel, an 18-hole golf course, a hotel, a conference center, boutique shops, restaurants, hiking baths, walkways, and recreational fields. LNR is installing new infrastructure on the northern tier of the base to service the first 500 condominiums that will be built at the base.

Construction, however, hinges on the transfer of 835 acres by the Navy to South Shore Tri-Town Development Corp., the state agency that is overseeing the redevelopment of the property. Tri-Town, which has no credit history, has been unable to obtain bonds to complete the sale, delaying the start of work. The Navy has requested $43 million for the parcels, an amount Tri-Town is seeking to lower through negotiations with naval officials; Tri-Town must propose a price for the acres no later than July 31.

While Navy officials have publicly voiced concern about Tri-Town’s ability to fulfill terms for a property transfer, LNR and Tri-Town have sought to reassure local officials they remain committed to the project [BRN, June 5].

$10M Grant from NIMH to Establish Neuroscience Research Center at Stanford U School of Medicine

The National Institute of Mental Health has awarded neuroscientists at the Stanford University School of Medicine a $10 million, five-year grant to establish and operate a Silvio O. Conte Center for Neuroscience Research.

The Stanford Conte Center will be devoted to the study of how the brain's synapses and circuits change during development or when exposed to changing conditions. The center hopes to apply its research on this change, or neuroplasticity, toward better understandings of schizophrenia, autism, bipolar disorder, pain syndromes and other conditions.

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Robert Malenka will serve as the center’s director. He will be joined by Stanford professors Thomas Südhof, the Avram Goldstein professor of medicine, and Karl Deisseroth, associate professor of bioengineering and of psychiatry and behavioral sciences; as well as Lu Chen, associate professor of neurobiology at the University of California, Berkeley.

UK's University of York Opens Mass Spectrometry Center of Excellence

The UK's University of York has opened a new £1.6 million ($2.8 million) Centre of Excellence in Mass Spectrometry, a facility intended to benefit the pharmaceutical, chemical, and healthcare industries, as well as support regional academic research — including the identification and characterization of proteins of interest to researchers trying to identify new drug targets and biopharmaceuticals.

The new facility — a joint initiative between the University’s Biology and Chemistry departments — was established through funding from Science City York, supported by Yorkshire Forward, with funds from the Northern Way Initiative.

The center was opened officially by Douglas Kell, chief executive of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, at a Tuesday ceremony.

In Consolidation Move, AMRI Opens 32K Sq. Ft. Research Facility in Budapest

Albany Molecular Research, or AMRI, said it has finished the construction of a new chemistry R&D facility in Budapest, Hungary, with the goal of consolidating equipment previously at multiple locations, and thus containing costs.

The facility, which consists of into 32,300 square feet of laboratory and administrative space, will provide space for the anticipated expansion of the company's synthetic chemistry services, which AMRI projects will double over the next five years. Those services will include parallel synthesis and medicinal chemistry, as well as the establishment of fragment-based drug discovery. The facility also includes a scale-up laboratory for non GMP synthesis for batch sizes up to 25 liters.

AMRI specializes in the manufacturing of active ingredients and pharmaceutical intermediates.

FABA Signs DuBiotech as 18th Member; Announces MOU with Biopark Near Torino, Italy

The Federation of Asian Biotech Associations on Wednesday announced it has signed the Dubai Biotechnology and Research Park, known as DuBiotech, as its 18th country member, allowing for the launch of a new FABA chapter in the UAE.

FABA, based in Hyderabad, India, also announced it signed a memorandum of understanding with Bioindustry Park Canavese, near Torino, Italy, to encourage and promote cooperation in the fields of clustering, support to internationalization of companies, incubation and technology development, and services to new emerging biotechnology companies. FABA said it is also in talks with officials from Canada to involve it as a member country, and increase opportunities for business cooperation.

“This will not only help in development of new business initiatives, but we will also see an increase in the number of foreign companies coming to India to set up their base here. Within the next year, I believe we will see a lot more joint ventures and tie-ups between Indian and these foreign companies,” FABA Secretary General BS Bajaj said in a statement.

The Scan

Omicron's Emergence

The World Health Organization has called Omicron a SARS-CoV-2 "variant of concern," the Los Angeles Times writes.

Not as Much

Merck's pill to treat COVID-19 reduces the risk of hospitalization and death among COVID-19 patients by less than previously reported, the New York Times says.

Bats That Hang Together

Discover magazine writes that researchers have found a social microbiome among vampire bats.

PLOS Papers on CEWAS, Simian Varicella Virus Transcriptome, Dermatomyositis Markers

In PLOS this week: multi-omic approach to home in on genetic risk variants, transcriptomic analysis of the simian varicella virus, and more.