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BioRegion Real Estate: Sep 25, 2009

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Mass. Life Sciences Center Approves $90M for Albert Sherman Center at Worcester's UMass Medical School

The board of the Massachusetts Life Science Center, the quasi-public state agency charged with overseeing Massachusetts' $1 billion, 10-year Life Sciences Act, on Wednesday approved its largest expense to date — $90 million in capital funds toward construction of the $405 million Albert Sherman Center research facility at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, Mass.

Slated for completion in 2012, the 500,000-square-foot Sherman Center will be home to the Advanced Therapeutics Cluster, comprising the RNA Therapeutics Institute, the Center for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, and the Gene Therapy Center, and contain wet research space for more than 100 investigators. The Sherman Center will also integrate quantitative “dry lab” methods such as bioinformatics, biostatistics, interactive health outcome assessments and electronic health care data systems with the work of biologists and chemists in the wet labs.

According to an economic impact analysis of the Sherman Center by the UMass Donahue Institute, the construction and operation of the Albert Sherman Center will generate $1 billion of statewide economic impact. That includes more than $400 million in direct construction spending expected to support approximately 6,000 jobs and generate over $760 million in total statewide economic activity during construction, followed by 1,600 jobs and $264 million in annual economic activity throughout the state once operational.

Ground for the Sherman Center was broken on Sept. 17.

“The Sherman Center will attract top scientists to Massachusetts, and the research that will be conducted there will lead to the creation of new companies and new jobs throughout the Massachusetts economy," Susan Windham-Bannister, the life-sci center's president and CEO, said in a statement.


Marine Biological Laboratory Breaks Ground on $25M Renovation of Loeb Laboratory

The Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass., broke ground Monday on a $25 million renovation of the MBL’s central research training facility, the Loeb Laboratory. The renovation, set to be completed in spring 2010, is a key step toward establishing a Center for Regenerative Biology and Medicine at MBL.

MBL said the renovation will create 250 regional construction jobs over the next 15 months, as well as enhance its ability to attract and retain top scientists.

Loeb Laboratory has been the cornerstone of MBL’s life sciences training programs since 1970. The renovation is being funded with a $15 million donation from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and $10 million from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, the quasi-public state agency charged with overseeing Massachusetts' $1 billion, 10-year Life Sciences Act.

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The combined $25 million will not be enough to build the project, an MBL spokeswoman told BioRegion News earlier this year, because construction bids came in at closer to $28 million; MBL hopes it can cover the difference through funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the $787 billion economic stimulus measure enacted in February by President Obama [BRN, April 17].

“The MBL trains over 450 scientists each year in Loeb and this renovation is critical to maintaining our position as a leader in scientific research and education," MBL Director and CEO Gary Borisy said in a statement.

The renovation was designed by Tsoi/Kobus & Associates. Shawmut Design and Construction is overseeing the project and will gut the building’s internal infrastructure to create a more modern facility that will bring all of MBL’s research-training programs into the building, and create spaces designed for each discipline.


Michigan Life Science and Innovation Center Opens in Plymouth, Mich., Ex-Pfizer Facility

Partners in the creation of the Michigan Life Science and Innovation Center on Thursday celebrated the facility's opening in a former Pfizer facility in Plymouth, Mich.

The partners — Michigan Economic Development Corp., nonprofit regional economic development group Ann Arbor SPARK, the Greater Wayne Economic Development Corp., and an undisclosed private foundation — spent $4.5 million to acquire the 57,518-square-foot facility from Pfizer, then renovate it into a site designed to connect entrepreneurs with business accelerator organizations and start-up life science companies.

"By offering state-of-the-art labs and start-up support in one location, MLSIC will be a catalyst for the growth of biotech and life sciences companies in southeast Michigan," Michael Finney, president of Ann Arbor SPARK, said in a statement.

The center said it will offer business acceleration services that include peer-to-peer mentoring designed to connect experienced entrepreneurs with start-up ventures, as well as access to wet lab and research space, and funding support.

Life sciences and related tenant companies at the new center include:

• Algal Scientific Corp., a biotech company working to develop a system to convert proprietary algal strain into fuel.

• Distributed Compliance Solutions, a compliance solutions hosting firm for small- to medium- sized life-sci companies and government agencies.

• Esperion Therapeutics, a developer of therapies intended to prevent, treat, and reverse cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.

• Lycera, a developer of small molecule drugs for the treatment of psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and cancer.

• Milad Pharmaceuticals Consulting, which assists clients in pharmaceutical kinetics and pharmaceutical development.

• Next Generation Therapeutics, a biotechnology company that focuses on novel nano- and microplatforms for drug delivery and imaging of cancer and in-licensing promising pharmaceutical and medical device technologies.

• Velesco Pharmaceutical Services, a contract research organization that provides laboratory services and clinical supplies to smaller pharmaceutical companies.

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MLSIC said in the statement its ongoing operational costs will be funded through a combination of public, private and foundation support.


Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences Opens New $10M Academic Center in Downtown Worcester

Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences on Tuesday officially opened a new $10 million, 30,000-square-foot academic center in downtown Worcester, Mass. The new center occupies the former Protocol Building property, at 40 Foster St., which the college purchased in August 2008.

The new center is named for alumnus Ahmad Alhaddad, a Class of 1986 graduate who has pledged $1.2 million for the project. The Alhaddad Building contains academic space, including a multi-purpose pharmacy laboratory with 64 stations; two 250-seat distance education auditoriums; three 50-seat “smart" classrooms; 20 faculty offices, and a glass-enclosed, street-level student lounge.

The new facility would nearly double the amount of space at the School of Pharmacy Worcester/Manchester, which last year received 3,000 applications for 150 slots. The college expects the new space to help it dramatically increase the number of pharmacy students it can enroll over the next three years, to 750 Doctor of Pharmacy students (1,000 students total across all programs) at MCPHS-Worcester.

Alhaddad was employed by chain pharmacies in Watertown, Williamston, and Cambridge, Mass., before moving to Florida in 2004 and acquiring Weaver’s Corner Pharmacy in Fort Myers, Fla. He holds a BSci in pharmacy, and a minor in nuclear pharmacy, from MCPHS.

Francis Harvey & Sons of Worcester oversaw construction of the facility, while Janet Stegman and Alan Westman of Stegman and Associates Architects served as project architects, and Kristine Stoller of Kristine Stoller Interior Design served as project interior designer.

With campuses in Boston, Worcester, and Manchester, New Hampshire, the college enrolls about 4,000 students from 35 states and 34 foreign countries, and employs more than 400 faculty and staff.


Quintiles Doubles Central Lab Capacity in Expanded Site Near Edinburgh

Quintiles has opened an expanded facility near Edinburgh, Scotland, doubling its central lab capacity with the intent of improving its service in Europe. The new 115,000-square-foot facility employs more than 500 people who provide lab services that include chemistry, haematology, biomarkers and coagulation, according to Outsourcing-Pharma.com.

The facility's new 80,000-square-foot central laboratory more than doubles the company's previous capacity, and increases throughput of clinical trial materials by processing up to three times more kits per day. The site also houses one of Quintiles’ three assay development laboratories, each specializing in the technical transfer of methods and assays, as well as in validating commercial instruments and assays for research.

The new facility is certified for sustainable design and low environmental impact under the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method, or BREEAM.

The expansion is part of a company strategy of locating its central laboratories across five continents, which the company believes will allow it to cut transportation costs, reduce concerns about import and export permits, provide better support to local investigators, and enhance the stability of its samples, the online news site reported.


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Vancouver, BC, Biotech Firm Radient Consolidating Operations in Edmonton, Alb.

Radient Technologies will consolidate in Edmonton, Alberta, all of its operations, now scattered between its headquarters in Vancouver, BC, plus operations in the Ontario communities of Burlington and Whitby, the company's new CEO David Cox told the Edmonton Journal.

Radient is moving into a 14,000-square-foot facility on Roper Road in South Edmonton to house its headquarters and research and development, and is looking for another building for its manufacturing process. Radient's new headquarters used to house Edmonton's ViRexx Medical, which laid off all staff last year following the failure of its lead cancer drug in clinical trials, the newspaper reported.

Radient uses patented microwave energy technology developed by Environment Canada to extract valuable compounds from plants used in the manufacture of pharmaceuticals and cosmetics.

According to the Journal, the 22-employee company expects to hire another 30 to 40 new workers in Edmonton over the next 18 months. It is not known yet how many employees from British Columbia and Ontario will move with the company to Edmonton.

The relocation is a blow for Vancouver's biotech sector, the newspaper noted, citing Eli Lilly's decision earlier this month to sever ties to a local firm, BioMS, following the failure of its potential treatment for secondary progressive multiple sclerosis in advanced trials.

Cox left his previous position as CEO of business incubator TEC Edmonton two weeks ago to head Radient, after a recruiter for the company approached him.


Sirona Biochem Stepping Up Drug Development After French Partner Opens State-of-the-Art Lab

Sirona Biochem, an emerging Vancouver, BC, biotech company focused on diabetes and obesity, said this week it is accelerating its drug development program following a visit to the new, French government-funded 5,400-square-foot laboratory of its French partner, TFChem SARL, in Val de Reuil, France, near its headquarters in Rouen, France.

Sirona has entered into an agreement with TFChem, which licenses to the Canadian company its technology of fluorinated carbohydrate mimics, as well as products in development to biotech companies. The agreement provides for research and development of new compounds known as SGLT inhibitors, which the companies view as having the potential to treat both diabetes and obesity.

"The additional researchers and equipment will allow us and our partner TFChem to make even greater strides, accelerating research into our unique family of molecules for obesity and diabetes drug development. Inevitably, we believe Sirona Biochem will benefit significantly," Mark Senner, Sirona's president, said in a statement soon after his return from a ceremony making the opening of TFChem's plant in Val de Reuil, France.


The Scan

Interfering With Invasive Mussels

The Chicago Tribune reports that researchers are studying whether RNA interference- or CRISPR-based approaches can combat invasive freshwater mussels.

Participation Analysis

A new study finds that women tend to participate less at scientific meetings but that some changes can lead to increased involvement, the Guardian reports.

Right Whales' Decline

A research study plans to use genetic analysis to gain insight into population decline among North American right whales, according to CBC.

Science Papers Tie Rare Mutations to Short Stature, Immunodeficiency; Present Single-Cell Transcriptomics Map

In Science this week: pair of mutations in one gene uncovered in brothers with short stature and immunodeficiency, and more.