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BioRegion Real Estate: Apr 17, 2009


Come Together, Mass. Gov. Patrick Urges Biotech Giants, Labor Unions in MBC Remarks

During closing remarks at the 2009 Annual Meeting of the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council on April 14, Gov. Deval Patrick urged leaders from the life-sci sector and the state's largest unions to resolve differences over construction hiring and CEO compensation that have sparked a labor campaign against industry practices called "Stop Biotech Looting."

"One in five unemployed people in this state work in construction. These people do not feel they've been given a fair shake by this industry, and that has to change...I could not tell you who to hire for which jobs at which building projects, but I would ask you, as your friend, your partner and your governor, to give them a fair shake," Patrick said, in remarks quoted by the Boston Business Journal.

"There are good capable members of the building trades out there looking for work. Work with me and each other," the governor added, according to the Boston Herald.

Patrick's decision to address the issue follows nearly two months of protests by International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 103 of Dorchester and other major unions against the life-sci industry's largest companies in Massachusetts [BRN, March 23; March 2].

The most recent protest took place on sidewalks near the MBC's meeting venue, the Seaport World Trade Center, where union members passed out a four-page flier condemning what it held were the life-sci industry's excessive prices.

On April 8, dozens of union members and their leaders rallied outside the State House in Boston, displaying support from Local 103 — which launched Stop Biotech Looting with New York-based consultant Corporate Campaign Inc. — as well as from the Massachusetts Building Trades Council and Massachusetts AFL-CIO. The labor leaders demanded Patrick remove from his economic advisory council Genzyme CEO Henri Termeer; the governor has resisted so far.

Lou Antonellis, business representative for Local 103, told BRN this week that state building trades President Frank Callahan "is going to continue to follow up" with Patrick's office, "on behalf of all the trades on the projects that are coming up."

Among them: EMD Serono's planned $50 million expansion of its R&D campus in Billerica, Mass., for which the company has through construction manager Jones Lang LaSalle solicited bids from prospective contractors. The company has said it will consider both union and non-union contractors for work associated with the expansion project, which would add 125,000 square feet to the current 85,000-square-foot R&D/office campus at 45 Middlesex Turnpike. Lab space will account for 160,000 square feet, or 76 percent, of the resulting 210,000 square feet of space.

Local 103 and other unions have demanded the company exclude non-union contractors, arguing unions employ more local workers and provide better benefits. Billerica town manager William Williams told BRN last month he would seek to meet both sides in hopes of working out an accord, a move EMD Serono and Local 103 have said could prove helpful.

"We were very glad to hear the governor actually weigh in on the issue. We were very glad to hear his remarks, and very supportive of what he had to say," Antonellis said.

Massachusetts life-sci leaders stand ready to cooperate with organized labor in tackling the issues they raised, MBC President and CEO Robert Coughlin said in a statement to BRN.

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"We've always been willing to sit down on this issue. They made a decision to focus on a campaign that frankly doesn't address the issue. In fact, the campaign obfuscates their goal — to have 100-percent union labor used regardless of the cost," Coughlin said. "Now, at the governor's urging, we hope union leaders will also be willing to work on this vital issue in good faith."

Expansion Would Nearly Double Space at Patriot Partners' Shire Campus in Lexington, Mass.

Developer Patriot Partners has presented to neighboring residents plans to expand its 465,000-square-foot Lexington (Mass.) Technology Park, a campus occupied by Shire's Human Genetic Therapies division, by constructing two buildings totaling an additional 380,000 square feet.

"This is not driven by any specific Shire requirement, but Patriot Partners hopes Shire will want to use the space," Stephen Rice, a partner with the developer, said during an April 8 appearance at the neighbors event, according to the Lexington Minuteman.

If Shire has no interest in the additional space, Rice said, Patriot partners would seek to find similar tenants in the biotechnology or life sciences field.

Shire last year completed its move into 250,000 square feet of the existing 293,000 square feet at the 95.6-acre tech park, once occupied by Raytheon. Shire also bought 17.5 acres at the technology park, where it has built another 172,000 square feet and is constructing another 41,000 square feet of new space set to be completed in 2010.

"Shire is emblematic of the high-quality, growing biotechnology and R&D companies that are attracted to Lexington Technology Park. With Massachusetts continuing to draw global biotechnology companies, we want to position Lexington Technology Park as an appealing option for those seeking a suburban campus setting," Patriot Partners wrote in a letter to neighboring residents advertising the April 8 meeting.

Rice cited another potential benefit to the town: The expansion is expected to generate an additional $1.6 million in annual gross tax revenue.

In return for approvals, Patriot Partners has offered to pay the town for a traffic mitigation fund to assist with traffic in the area, especially on Shade Street, as well as additional funds for the Lexpress neighborhood minibus system in addition to the $20,000 it already gives.

The Lexington Board of Selectmen is expected to take up the campus expansion at a special Town Meeting on May 6. Patriot Partners is seeking approval for an increase in the campus' floor-area ratio, from the current permitted 0.15 to 0.24.

Report: Pfizer Likely to Split Research Between Connecticut, New Jersey After Wyeth Merger

Pfizer's decision to divide its research division into two units once it completes its $60 billion merger with Wyeth "makes it likely the company's traditional drug discovery and development will be centered in New London, Conn., and its biotech innovations will be headquartered at Wyeth's current headquarters in [Madison,] New Jersey," according to unnamed analysts cited by the Day of New London.

The Day did not elaborate on the basis for the speculation, nor did it say what would happen to the company's Groton, Conn., outpost. A Pfizer spokesman quoted by the newspaper could not offer specifics on which unit would be based where, saying that would be addressed after the merger is completed.

But the spokesman, Ray Kerins, emphasized that New London and Groton would continue to play a key role for the combined company as it has at present, as the home base of Pfizer's research operations.

"A lot of wonderful things come out of Connecticut, and we continue to focus on where innovative science is coming from. Groton-New London continues to be a very important place for Pfizer when it comes to research," Kerins told the newspaper.

The Scan

Support for Moderna Booster

An FDA advisory committee supports authorizing a booster for Moderna's SARS-CoV-2 vaccine, CNN reports.

Testing at UK Lab Suspended

SARS-CoV-2 testing at a UK lab has been suspended following a number of false negative results.

J&J CSO to Step Down

The Wall Street Journal reports that Paul Stoffels will be stepping down as chief scientific officer at Johnson & Johnson by the end of the year.

Science Papers Present Proteo-Genomic Map of Human Health, Brain Tumor Target, Tool to Infer CNVs

In Science this week: gene-protein-disease map, epigenomic and transcriptomic approach highlights potential therapeutic target for gliomas, and more