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BioRegion Real Estate: May 8, 2009

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Sanofi-aventis Kicks Off €200M Conversion of French Pharma Plant into Biotech Facility

Sanofi-aventis said this week it will spend €200M ($266 million) to transform its pharmaceuticals production site in Vitry-sur-Seine, France, into a facility for researching, developing, then producing biotechnology products through alliances with smaller biotech companies. Starting in 2012, for example, the plant is expected to create the company’s first cell culture biotechnoloy platform designed to produce monoclonal antibodies.

The Paris-based pharma giant officially launched its plant conversion project, dubbed Biolaunch, in a ceremony attended by top Sanofi-aventis executives and government officials, including CEO Christopher Viehbacher and Luc Chatel, France’s secretary of state for industry and consumption at the ministry for the economy, industry and employment.

“Monoclonal antibodies will open the way to a new generation of better targeted and more effective treatments with fewer side effects,” Viehbacher said in a statement.

According to that statement, Sanofi-aventis will open its tech platform to other companies, based on their development or production needs.

Biolaunch is one of two new biotech initiatives for Sanofi-aventis; the company last month began a training program that combines instruction on theory and practice. The Vitry-sur-Seine site is subject to SEVESO II, a directive of the European community created to prevent major accidents involving dangerous substances, as well as to limit damage from accidents involving dangerous substances. That classification will end when the current chemicals activities will be transferred at the end of 2011.


On its San Diego Campus, Althea Technologies Completes $15M cGMP Manufacturing Facility

Executives of Althea Technologies joined with its lenders and San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders in celebrating the completion of a more than $15 million, 30,000-square-foot commercial-scale cGMP manufacturing facility, within its headquarters campus in the California city's Sorrento Valley section.

Althea, a provider of services for biopharmaceutical development and manufacturing, cut a ceremonial ribbon to mark completion of the project, which expands the company's manufacturing capacity in response to growing demand by drug developers seeking to outsource production operations.

The manufacturing facility was designed to comply with both US and European manufacturing regulations.

Althea said all construction services for the new facility were provided by San Diego-based businesses. Althea obtained financing for the project through City National Bank, and the private equity firm Telegraph Hill Partners, which specializes in life sciences and healthcare investments.


Bayer CropScience's $10M RTP Expansion Set to Add 128 Jobs Over Five Years

Bayer CropScience, the plant biotech unit of German-owned Bayer AG, will carry out a $10.2 million expansion of its campus at Research Triangle Park, a project expected to add 128 new jobs over the next five years to the company’s current state-based work force of 476.

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The company plans to open the Bayer CropScience Research and Development Innovation Center in Morrisville, NC, leasing existing laboratory and office space to conduct basic plant research across several technology and crop platforms. The Innovation Center will also house the company’s BioAnalytics and Regulatory Affairs functions, which support the development and commercialization of biotech products.

“This region is also a center of agricultural and biotechnology innovation, so when we were looking to expand our innovation capacity, it made great business sense to do so in this area,” Bill Buckner, Bayer CropScience CEO, said in a statement.

North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue announced the expansion on May 6, soon after the state Economic Investment Committee voted unanimously to award an up-to-$2.3 million Job Development Investment Grant to Bayer CropScience tied to its promise of creating additional jobs. While wages will vary by position, the average annual wage for the 128 new jobs will be $101,018, not including benefits — more than double the $43,160 annual average wage for Morrisville and the rest of Wake County.

The JDIG is pegged to the number of jobs creates, then sustains at Morrisville each of the next nine years. For any year that Bayer CropScience meets its target number of jobs, the state will award a grant equal to half of the state personal income withholding taxes derived from the creation of new jobs.

Because Wake is considered one of North Carolina’s more prosperous counties, 25 percent of the JDIG award, or up to $774,000, goes to the Industrial Development Fund, created to encourage economic development in less prosperous counties. North Carolina credits the JDIG program with enticing employers to commit to creating more than 30,000 jobs, and spending $6.1 billion in the state.

Bayer CropScience, which employs 2,400 people in the US, specializes in crop protection, non-agricultural pest control, seeds and plant biotechnology. The company’s primary research and development site is its BioScience Innovation Center in Gent, Belgium.


Rockville, Md., Foundation Projects 25 New Jobs from TB Manufacturing Plant Expansion

Aeras Global TB Vaccine Foundation said May 4 it will create 25 new jobs from its expansion of its tuberculosis vaccine manufacturing facility at its Rockville, Md., headquarters, at 1405 Research Blvd., during a ceremony held that day to mark completion of the project [BRN, May 1].

Aeras added a 9,000-square-foot plant to the 6,500-square-foot facility it opened in 2006. The nonprofit foundation hopes to produce six vaccine candidates within the next few years, Aeras President and CEO Jerald Sadoff said, according to Maryland Community Newspapers.

The expansion cost was not disclosed, though Aeras did say it has spent $23 million in its manufacturing facilities since 2006. Whiting-Turner of Baltimore was the general contractor on the just-completed expansion, which generated more than 100 construction jobs, according to the newspaper group.

Established in 2003 with eight employees, Aeras has grown its staff since then to about 135 employees. He credited the region's talent pool, which includes students from the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University, as well as employees who came to Aeras from other life-sci companies.

Aeras and its partners have developed four vaccine candidates that are undergoing testing in clinical trials in India, Kenya, South Africa, and Uganda. Aeras has been awarded $23 million from the government of the Netherlands, and has received grants of $80 million and $200 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.


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Catalent Installing 10-Color Press at Irish Pack Printing Plant, a Capacity Expansion

Contract pharmaceutical services provider Catalent will install a 10-color press at its printed components facility in Dublin, Ireland, as part of an expansion of its European operations, Outsourcing-Pharma.com has reported.

Victor Dixon, vice president of the Somerset, NJ, company’s printed components business, said the company will install a KBA Rapida 106, which he told the online news outlet “introduces a higher standard in pharmaceutical carton supply, and follows our investment in similar technology upgrades at our plants in the US and Puerto Rico.”

The press, capable of printing up to 15,000 packaging box sheets and medical device cartons per hour, will become fully operational early next month. The unit features a QualiTronic full-sheet scanning camera, originally developed for currency production, which examines each sheet at full production speed, comparing it to an approved master for inconsistencies or deviations.

The Dublin plant opened in 1989

Catalent said the KBA press’ QualiTronic monitoring system can detect any minute color changes and automatically adjust the press without the need for operator intervention.


Mass. Life Sciences Center Awards $3.4M in Loan to Seven Early-Stage Bio Companies

The Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, the quasi-public agency that oversees Gov. Deval Patrick’s $1 billion, 10-year Life Sciences Act, said earlier this week it has awarded through its Accelerator Program a total $3.4 million in loans to seven early-stage life-sci businesses based in the Bay State, out of 88 applicants.

The seven winners:

• Eutropics Pharmaceuticals of Boston's Dorchester section, an oncology drug company that develops drugs for treating aggressive forms of myeloma, lymphoma, leukemia, and other cancers.

• Good Start Genetics, a Boston molecular diagnostics company working to develop a low-cost, pre-pregnancy test for 50 genetic disorders that will replace single-disorder tests currently on the market. The company uses a process developed by team members from George Church’s laboratory at Harvard Medical School.

• InVivo Therapeutics, a Cambridge medical device company developing technology to treat traumatic spinal cord injury by using biomaterials with combinations of drugs and cells. The company is commercializing research by Robert Langer of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Jay Vacanti of the Massachusetts General and Children’s Hospitals in Boston.

• Pluromed, a Woburn maker of injectable plugs designed to improve outcomes in cardiothoracic surgery. Pluromed's LeGoo Internal Vessel Occluder earned the company the 2008 European Association of Cardio-Thoracic Surgery Techno-College Innovation Award for the most important technological breakthrough in any area related to thoracic and cardiovascular surgery.

• Spectra Analysis, a Marlborough supplier of molecular spectroscopy systems and applications for chromatography.

• Wadsworth Technologies, a Westborough medical device maker whose Dermaloc Wound Closure System applies tension to skin wounds to close them without anesthesia or sutures resulting in a novel, painless, rapid, needle-free and durable wound closure. The product is currently in clinical testing.

• Wolfe Laboratories, a Watertown biopharmaceutical development company, will use its $500,000 loan toward constructing the first stage of an aseptic fill/finish manufacturing facility for pre-clinical development and clinical trials. Once the first stage of the aseptic fill/finish operation is functional and a base of clients is developed, Wolfe Laboratories said in a statement, it will pursue further expansion.


Bayer HealthCare Seeks $50M for Richmond, Calif., Campus, a $100M Drop in Asking Price

Bayer HealthCare has placed its 350,000-square-foot Richmond, Calif., facility for sale for the second time in two years, and this time has knocked off $100 million from its asking price, dropping it to $50 million, the San Francisco Business Times reported.

Through broker GVA Kidder Mathews, Bayer HealthCare will market the former biotech home of Berlex, acquired by the unit of German-owned Bayer as part of its acquisition of Schering in December 2006. Bayer would use 100,000 square feet of the campus' office and laboratory space for three to five years, Helmut Altmann, vice president of integration program management for Bayer, told the newspaper.

That leaves 250,000 square feet available for lease at the site, which is being marketed under the name Hilltop Science & Innovation Campus — including 107,000 square feet of manufacturing capacity. Asking rent is $24 per square foot.

About 135 Bayer employees are housed at the site, where Berlex once employed 400 people and the multiple sclerosis drug Betaseron was developed.


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