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BioRegion Real Estate: May 1, 2009

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Mass. Biotech Council Designates First Set of 'BioReady' Communities Ready for Life-Sci Development

The Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, the Bay State's life sciences industry group, on April 30 announced its first set of communities rated the readiest to accommodate life-sciences companies seeking to relocate to or expand within the Bay State.

The council’s BioReady Communities Campaign designated 44 municipalities, of which:

• 17 municipalities won the campaign's highest rating of "Platinum" — Andover, Bedford, Beverly, Boston, Cambridge, Canton, Devens, Framingham, Grafton, Haverhill, Lexington, North Andover, Southfield (Tri-Town), Springfield, Taunton, Waltham, and Worcester.

• Nine municipalities won the second-highest "Gold" rating — Attleboro, Billerica, Brockton, Chicopee, Fall River, Northampton, Tewksbury, Watertown, and Westfield.

• Five municipalities received the next-highest "Silver" rating — Chelsea, Dedham, Lynn, Newburyport, and Reading.

• 13 municipalities took the "Bronze" rating — Burlington, Easthampton, Everett, Franklin, Gardner, Greenfield, Holliston, Lawrence, Northbridge, Randolph, Salem, Sturbridge, and West Bridgewater.

The MBC BioReady Community Campaign has been conducted with support from the private nonprofit group Massachusetts Alliance for Economic Development or MassEcon, and regional organizations throughout Massachusetts.

"We think through this BioReady campaign we can educate communities that could be ready if a company was looking to locate in Massachusetts and needed an answer in four days," Peter Abair, director of economic development for the council, told the Boston Globe.

About 100 Massachusetts communities were not rated, and will not be, because they lack access to natural gas, which is required by labs, MBC spokeswoman Sarah MacDonald told BioRegion News yesterday.

"We intend to continue our BioReady workshops to help communities who may not have completed a survey, to help them assess where they are at, at ultimately be rated," MacDonald said. "We will also work with rated communities to improve their rating—by sharing best practices between communities, providing support when there are questions about zoning, etc."

She told BRN communities will be rated on an ongoing basis, though MBC will have an event every year to recognize those rated as BioReady.

"If a community submits a survey response, we will rate the response against the criteria, and add to the list on a rolling basis. Also, it is possible for communities to fall from a higher rating to lower based on a variety of activity. So, we will monitor that as well," MacDonald said.

Bronze communities have district municipal water and sewer services available in commercial and industrial areas. Zoning allows for biotech laboratory and manufacturing uses by special permit. An identified point of contact exists in the town or city government to assist life-sciences employers and their representatives.

Silver communities meet the Bronze rating criteria, and in addition allow biotech laboratory and manufacturing uses by right. Buildings and/or land sites have been identified for biotechnology uses in their municipal plans. Officials convene site plan review meetings, bringing together all pertinent departments, to provide an overview of the local approvals process for significant commercial and industrial projects.

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In addition, Silver-rated communities have either identified land sites and/or buildings for life sciences use in the state BioSites inventory; or have been designated Priority Development Sites warranting fast-track review and decisions, under Chapter 43D of the General Laws of Massachusetts. In addition, Silver communities have at least one site designated by the state for redevelopment under the Massachusetts Growth Districts Initiative.

Gold communities meet the Silver rating criteria, and in addition, their municipal boards of health have adopted National Institutes of Health guidelines on recombinant DNA activity as part of their regulations. Gold communities have sites or buildings pre-permitted for biotechnology laboratory or manufacturing use, or have existing buildings where biotech laboratory or manufacturing activities are taking place.

Platinum communities meet the Gold rating criteria, and in addition include within their borders one or more buildings that are already permitted for biotech uses, and have 20,000 square feet or more of available space for biotech uses or have a ready-to-develop “shovel-ready,” pre-permitted land site with completed Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act reviews, as well as municipal water and sewer capacity to meet additional demand.


With New Waltham, Mass., Lease, Alkermes Joins Parade of Biotechs Bolting Cambridge for Suburbs

Alkermes announced on April 29 it will relocate its Cambridge headquarters to Waltham, Mass., where the drug discoverer has signed a lease for 100,000 square feet within the 180,000-square-foot 180 Winter St., within the Reservoir Woods campus completed last year and jointly owned by Marcus Partners, the Davis Cos., and Prudential Real Estate Investors.

Alkermes said it expects to move out of its current Cambridge headquarters, within 142,000 square feet at 88 Sidney St., later this year, even though its lease does not expire until 2012, since another Cambridge-based biotech, Vertex Pharmaceuticals, has agreed to sublease the space, according to the Boston Business Journal — something Vertex spokesman Zachary Barber would not confirm to the newspaper.

Alkermes joins Altus Pharmaceuticals, ImmunoGen, Shire, and other Cambridge-based biotech companies that have either moved to nearby suburbs, or announced plans to do so. A key factor is cheaper rent the further away companies locate from Cambridge and neighboring Boston. In its announcement, the company said it expects the move to generate "approximately $8 million" in annual cash savings in fiscal year 2011 and beyond. According to the BBJ, Alkermes expects to save between $9 and $16 per square foot in rent, or about $750,000 a year, following the move.

Since last year, Alkermes has cut costs following Eli Lilly's decision to end a collaboration aimed at producing an inhaled insulin. Alkermes proceeded to eliminate 150 jobs and close its Chelsea, Mass., manufacturing plant — just a year after planning to quadruple its workforce there [BRN, July 23, 2007] . The move reduced the company’s workforce by about 18 percent to 235 people in Cambridge and another 400 employees at an Ohio manufacturing facility.

CB Richard Ellis represented Reservoir Woods owners in the lease deal, while Colliers Meredith & Grew represented Alkermes — which will be the first tenant at Reservoir Woods.


Forest City Eyes Scaleback of East Baltimore Sci+Tech Park's Third Construction Phase

Cleveland developer Forest City Enterprises and other partners in developing Science + Technology Park at Johns Hopkins, near East Baltimore's Johns Hopkins Hospital, are considering halving the size of a planned 280,000-square-foot lab building set to be the next building developed there, or juggling the construction schedule so the third phase instead consists of a smaller 150,000-square-foot research facility, the Baltimore Business Journal reported.

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“It’s easier to finance a building that is $50 million versus one that is $100 million. It’s not appropriate to build speculative buildings. Every market is frozen right now,” Scott Levitan, a senior vice president with Forest City who handles leasing for the project, told the newspaper.

The moves are in response to the project being behind schedule, and over initial budget projections, some eight years after Baltimore's then-Mayor Martin O'Malley — now Maryland's governor — first announced plans for the science park, an anchor of both the neighborhood's revitalization effort and the state's life-sci effort.

Another challenge for the sci-tech park: The $54 million, 278,000-square-foot John G. Rangos building at 855 North Wolfe St. — for which O'Malley cut the ribbon a year ago [BRN, April 14, 2008] — is only half-leased, the Business Journal reported.


Ohio Joins with Ohio State University, Cardinal Health on $10M Molecular Imaging Technology Center

Ohio's Third Frontier tech commercialization program will join with the Ohio State University and Cardinal Health to create a $10 million Molecular Imaging Technology Center within an expanded Wright Center of Innovation in Biomedical Imaging at OSU.

The center is designed to provide Ohio State researchers with new manufacturing capabilities and expertise to aid development of new molecular imaging agents in Positron Emission Tomography imaging. The center is also designed to enhance Cardinal Health's radiopharmaceutical manufacturing facility and nuclear pharmacy operations, allowing it to support manufacturing and dispensing of these agents for clinical trials across its national network of radiopharmaceutical facilities.

The center is projected to create some 280 jobs, and attract or launch nine companies. In addition, a distinguished faculty position in radiopharmaceutical chemistry will be added to Ohio State's department of radiology.

The $1.6 billion Third Frontier program will set aside $5 million to the initiative, while Cardinal will spend $2 million to $3 million, and the rest will come from the university and other partners such as the Wright Center’s recent spinoffs or pharmaceutical companies, the newspaper Business First of Columbus reported.


£2M Clinical Translational Research Center Opens at Northern Ireland's Altnagelvin Hospital

The Clinical Translational Research and Innovation Centre, or C-TRIC, a new £2million (about $3 million) research facility, officially opened April 29 on the Western Health and Social Care Trust's Altnagelvin Hospital site in Londonderry, Northern Ireland. The center is designed to act as a flagship for attracting investment through research and innovation in healthcare to the UK's North West region.

The project, part of the North West Business Technology Zone, was funded by Invest Northern Ireland with £1.3m provided under the European Union's INTERREG IIIa, and a further £464,000 through the Integrated Development Fund. The Western Trust contributed £300,000 and Derry City Council £200,000 towards the project.

The 9,000 square-foot facility is jointly operated and supported by the University of Ulster, Western Trust, and Derry City Council. The first clinical translational research center on the island of Ireland, six start-up firms, and a University of Ulster health project are set to move into it. C-TRIC will also work to nurture new business ideas by providing rental workspace, laboratory facilities and R&D facilities in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and healthcare sectors.

"C-TRIC will further facilitate the commercialization of knowledge by strengthening links between clinicians, academia, and industry, becoming an integral part of the North West Business and Technology Zone," Invest NI chief executive Alastair Hamilton said at an event marking the official opening of the facility.

Ilex, the urban regeneration company, is the managing authority for the Integrated Development Fund which has provided over £450,000 towards the project. Gerard McCleave, Director of Strategy and Regeneration at Ilex said: "We see C-TRIC as a vehicle for turning new ideas into reality. The quality of the projects chosen gives us great confidence in C-TRIC's ability to continue to attract highly innovative projects."

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Four enterprises at C-TRIC are medical device companies, one is a diagnostics firm, and one a software venture. Their activities focus on cardiac devices, respiratory health, wound management and deep-cleansing technologies aimed at reducing hospital-acquired infections.

University of Ulster researchers will use the facility in recruiting and medically assessing one-third of participants in a 6,000 people island-wide survey, being conducted by four universities across Ireland, into ways of tackling osteoporosis, Alzheimer's disease, and stroke.


Aeras Global TB Foundation Opens Expanded Manufacturing Facility at Rockville, Md., HQ

The Aeras Global TB Vaccine Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to eliminating tuberculosis worldwide, on May 4 plans to celebrate the opening of an expanded tuberculosis vaccine manufacturing facility at its Rockville, Md., headquarters, at 1405 Research Blvd.

The expanded facility will give Aeras the capacity to deliver 200 million doses of bulk vaccine, the estimated worldwide need for a new TB vaccine. Aeras said the facility will be the only TB vaccine manufacturing facility in the world to show a Bio-Safety Level 2 certification as well as compliance with cGMP standards.

Completed in 2006, the original manufacturing facility uses technologies that include some pioneered by Aeras. The foundation said the facility also has the capacity to support vaccine manufacturing needs of product development partnerships pursuing the development of vaccines for HIV, malaria, and respiratory infections.

The new facility "brings Aeras the in-house capacity to support all the steps necessary to create powder, liquid, and lyophilized formulations of vaccines," the company said in a statement. "TB vaccines under development will move from the cell bank to process development and fermentation in the existing 'upstream' facility, and then to the new facility for purification and filling into vials or capsules."


Mayo Clinic Offers Elk Run Developer Support for Minnesota Biopark

The Mayo Clinic this week endorsed the BioBusiness Park at Elk Run planned for 200 acres of a 2,325-acre mixed-use development site in Pine Island, Minn., by Tower Investments of Woodland, Calif.

 

"We're just supporting it in any way we possibly can, because we see a real benefit down the road," Mayo Clinic CEO Dr. Denis Cortese said at the city-county Government Center, seated with a group of proponents of Elk Run, the Post-Bulletin of Rochester, Minn., reported.

Elk Run plans call for Tower to build about 2.5 million square feet of office and laboratory space, and another 2.7 million square feet of retail space. In March, Tower joined with biotechnology investor-analyst G. Steven Burrill to launch a fund aimed at financing potential life-sciences tenants of the 200-acre campus, from established companies to spinouts of the state’s universities and research institutions.

The development's first two buildings, each totaling 40,000 square feet, are expected to start construction this summer. One building will include a facility for accelerating commercialization by life-sci startups; the other, space for startups with lighter equipment needs. The two buildings are projected to generate between 75 and 95 new jobs, Geoff Griffin of Tower Investments told the Post-Bulletin.

Cortese said Mayo Clinic had been planning for years to create its own incubator program of its own, in hopes of capturing as many of the startups spun out of there as possible. A dearth of space now makes that task difficult at best.

John Pierce, vice president of Tower Investments, said Elk Run had one advantage over life-sci developments elsewhere — a lower cost of doing business than many other biotech, pharma, and medical device meccas, telling the newspaper: "We've gotten a lot of interest (from biobusinesses), because, frankly, we may be a lot more competitive from a cost standpoint."


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Bankrupt Chrysler Discloses Growing Demand for its Shuttered Auto Plant in Newark, Del.

Several undisclosed would-be buyers have joined the University of Delaware in discussing what to do with the shuttered former Chrysler plant in Newark, Del., which the newly-bankrupt auto maker has spoken to city officials about demolishing.

"They were talking about leveling the whole place," during meetings between Chrysler and the city's buildings department, Newark Building Director Thomas Sciulli told the News Journal of Wilmington, Del., earlier this week. The automaker, which filed April 30 for protection from creditors under Chapter 11 of the US Bankruptcy Code, said through a spokesman that no decision on razing the plant will be made until it comes to an agreement with a buyer.

"We've had discussions with a couple of potential buyers at this point," Chrysler spokesman Max Gates told the News Journal. He would not identify the would-be buyers, citing confidential agreements. Till now UD had been the only known entity interested in buying the 270-acre former plant off Del. 896, which closed last December, idling more than 1,100 employees.

UD President Patrick Harker has said he wants his university to convert the site into a new technology center in the mold of Delaware Technology Park, home to 54 companies anchored by UD's Delaware Biotechnology Institute. The tech park has been credited with helping create 16,000 jobs, winning $250 million in grants, and generating $8 million a year in taxes [BRN, March 16] Harker is among UD administrators who have said the site could have space for spin-off businesses and partnerships, as well as space to expand parking at the nearby Newark Rail Station.


ICON Acquisition of Qualia Clinical Services Assets Includes 100-Bed Phase 1 Facility in Omaha, Neb.

Irish-owned ICON, a Dublin provider of outsourced development services to the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical device industries, said its early-stage drug development capabilities have expanded in the US as a result of its acquiring assets of the former Qualia Clinical Services that include a 33,000-square-foot, 100-bed Phase I facility in Omaha, Neb.

"This latest acquisition supports our strategy of expanding our Phase I capabilities in the US and brings our total bed capacity there to approximately 225 beds,'' Thomas Frey, president of ICON Development Solutions, said in a statement.

ICON also announced it has appointed Gary Curtis as senior VP of global clinical pharmacology to oversee integration of the Omaha facility with ICON's existing Phase I units. The company said Curtis will be supported by key clinical operational staff from Qualia who have been rehired by ICON.


The Scan

US Booster Eligibility Decision

The US CDC director recommends that people at high risk of developing COVID-19 due to their jobs also be eligible for COVID-19 boosters, in addition to those 65 years old and older or with underlying medical conditions.

Arizona Bill Before Judge

The Arizona Daily Star reports that a judge weighing whether a new Arizona law restricting abortion due to genetic conditions is a ban or a restriction.

Additional Genes

Wales is rolling out new genetic testing service for cancer patients, according to BBC News.

Science Papers Examine State of Human Genomic Research, Single-Cell Protein Quantification

In Science this week: a number of editorials and policy reports discuss advances in human genomic research, and more.