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Burnham Institute for Medical Research and More News Briefs

Burnham Institute for Medical Research Tops Out Facility in Florida’s Lake Nona
The Burnham Institute for Medical Research on April 24 celebrated a construction milestone, its “topping out” or reaching maximum height for its $80 million, 175,000-square-foot permanent East Coast research facility within the 7,000-acre Lake Nona master-planned community in Orlando, Fla. [see photo].
Birmingham, Ala.-based BE&K Building Group is overseeing construction of the project, which broke ground in October 2007 [BRN, Oct. 8, 2007].
The facility consists of a two-story administrative wing and a three-story research wing, set to seek certification from the US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design or LEED program. The two structures will be connected by a central hub, which features a glass-walled common area, courtyard and a series of cascading stairs.
Burnham plans to move into its Lake Nona facility by mid-2009. Until then, the institute is carrying out Florida operations within 14,000 square feet of temporary space donated by Florida's Blood Centers at its building within Orlando Central Park; 28 people worked there as of last month, according to research by the Florida state Senate for a pending economic development bill [see Around the Regions, this issue].  
Burnham announced its Lake Nona plans in 2006, promising to create 303 jobs. In return, Burnham received more than a combined $300 million in state and local economic development subsidies, becoming became the first research institute to dip into the state’s original $200 million Innovation Incentive fund, receiving $155.3 million. The cash includes the cost of infrastructure improvements within the 600-acre “medical city” planned as part of the 7,000-acre Lake Nona being developed by Tavistock Group.

Florida Signs Accord for $60M Share of Economic Package for VGTI
Florida economic development officials last week signed an initial agreement committing the state to award $60 million toward its share of an incentive package for Oregon Health and Science University’s Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute. VGTI will build its first satellite facility outside Oregon, a 130,000-square-foot building on 12 acres within the Florida Center for Innovation, a life sciences and health campus within the Tradition master-planned community in Port St. Lucie, Fla.
VGTI has committed to creating 200 jobs over the next 10 years. In return, the state had promised VGTI $60 million from the state’s Innovation Incentive Fund, whose ability to assist future projects is uncertain [see Around the Regions, this issue] a $2.9 million property tax abatement from St. Lucie County; another $1.5 million property tax break from the city of St. Lucie; $400,000 in rebates on impact fees collected by the county; a probable tax rebate; and, perhaps most importantly, the benefit of $53 million in infrastructure improvements the city will build for all of FCI.

Wyeth Lays Off 141 Manufacturing, R&D Employees in Pearl River, NY

Wyeth laid off 141 workers at its Pearl River, NY, plant on April 25, representing about 12 percent of the 1,200 employees worldwide targeted to lose their jobs as part of a company cost-cutting plan blamed on competition from generic drugs, the Journal News of White Plains, NY, reported.
The jobs at the Pearl River site were largely in manufacturing and research and development, Wyeth spokesman Douglas Petkus told the newspaper.
The layoffs took place three days after Wyeth posted first-quarter earnings of $1.2 billion — 4.6 percent below the year-ago first quarter profit. The company has seen its revenues erode following the introduction of generic versions of its profitable Protonix ulcer drug. Protonix had been one of Wyeth's biggest products, with annual sales of more than $1.7 billion.
That loss of revenue has had a "significant negative effect on the company," Petkus told the Journal News, "and was probably the primary reason” why Wyeth said last month it would cut 1,200 sales representatives in its pharmaceutical and consumer health care divisions.
The 141 idled employees included 13 maintenance and site services staffers of some 900 members of Local 143C based at Pearl River. The 900 were among 3,200 total employees at the facility before the layoffs.

HCP Completes Sale of 17 Properties to Medical Properties Trust for $...M; Part of 21-Site Deal
HCP has completed the sale of 17 properties to Medical Properties Trust of Birmingham, Ala., at a combined price of $306 million. The sales, announced in two transactions earlier this month, were part of an approximately $371 million, 21-property sale by HCP to Medical Properties Trust announced in March.
Sold were Cleveland Regional Medical Center in Cleveland, Tex.; Chesterfield General Hospital in Cheraw, SC; Marlboro Park Hospital in Bennettsville, SC; Cornerstone Hospital of Houston - Clear Lake in Webster, Tex.; Cornerstone Hospital of Bossier City (La.); Cornerstone Hospital of Southeast Arizona in Tucson; Mountain View Hospital in Idaho Falls, Idaho; Wesley Rehabilitation Hospital in Wichita, Kans.; Sunrise Rehabilitation Hospital in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Pioneer Valley Hospital in West Valley City, Utah; Poplar Bluff (Mo.) Regional Medical Center; and six unnamed wellness centers located in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.
HCP, a publicly-traded real estate investment trust headquartered in Long Beach, Calif., sold the properties as part of a portfolio shift away from healthcare and senior housing properties, and toward life sciences lab buildings — a shift that begun with its $2.9 billion acquisition of the US portfolio of British-owned Slough Estates Group [BRN, June 11, 2007; Aug. 20, 2007].

Unigene Joint Venture Breaks Ground for Global Biotechnology Park in China
Unigene Laboratories of Fairfield, NJ, has broken ground for new facilities for its joint venture in China, in the Shijiazhuang Economic and Technology Development Zone of Hebei Province.
The joint venture, called Unigene Biotechnology Company Ltd., will operate facilities for research, development, formulation and manufacturing set to occupy more than 215,000 square feet on land made available by the Shijiazhuang Pharmaceutical Group and two subsidiaries, China Pharmaceutical Group Ltd. and NBP Pharmaceutical Company.
Construction of the first building, which will ultimately house the research and development facilities of the JV, is scheduled for completion by the end of 2008. The four-story building will contain facilities for molecular biology, fermentation, purification, pharmacology, analytical chemistry, formulation, pilot-scale production of biotechnology products, and administrative offices. It is anticipated that construction will begin this summer on manufacturing facilities which will be designed for peptide production and manufacture of oral and nasal final products. Production and validation activities are expected to begin in 2009.
The joint venture initially will focus on manufacturing and R&D of salmon calcitonin and parathyroid hormone and related products for China and possibly other global markets.

Genzyme Plans New $90M R&D Center in Beijing, With China Expansion in Mind
Genzyme said last week it will build a new $90 million research and development center in Beijing — “an important element in Genzyme's ongoing global expansion and commitment to establishing a long-term presence in China,” the company said in its announcement.
The R&D center will be located in Zhongguancun Life Science Park, an area dedicated to academic and government research centers as well as pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. Genzyme is seeking governmental authorizations and expects to complete and open the facility in 2010.
Genzyme said the 200,000 square-foot building will be able to accommodate 350 employees, and house research and development activities in many of its key areas of focus — including orthopedics, transplant and immune disease, oncology, endocrinology, and cardiovascular disease. The R&D center will house laboratory-scale operations for the matrix-induced autologous chondrocyte implantation or MACI cell therapy and polyclonal antibody operations.
The facility will feature design intended to meet the US Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards. RMJM Hillier is the project architect; MW Zander, the engineer.
The new facility will expand Genzyme’s workforce in China, which now numbers 25 employees based in Beijing and Shanghai. Genzyme has a pilot program at Beijing Wujing Hospital for MACI, and markets Synvisc and Thymoglobulin in China, with additional products set to be introduced next year.
Since 1999, Genzyme has provided its rare genetic disease treatment Cerezyme free to about 125 patients through the Gaucher Initiative, Genzyme's humanitarian partnership with Project HOPE. Last year, the company began a collaboration with Chinese firm Sunway Biotech Company Ltd., with the goal of developing a gene therapy for cardiovascular disease to Chinese patients.

Mascoma and UT Join in $26M Biomass Conversion Technology Grant from DOE
Mascoma and a set of partners led by University of Tennessee will receive a $26 million US Department of Energy grant for demonstrating the production of cellulosic ethanol at approximately one-tenth commercial scale operations.
Mascoma UT, its research foundation and Genera Energy will develop a new biorefinery at the Niles Ferry Industrial Park in the Monroe County community of Vonore, Tenn. The project is part of the Tennessee Biofuels Initiative, a business model proposed by UT and supported by Governor Phil Bredesen and the state legislature. The state agreed last year to spend $40.7 million to build the demonstration biorefinery, as well as for further research and development of bioenergy crops and conversion techniques.
UT has contracted with 16 farmers within 50 miles of the biorefinery site to produce 720 acres of switchgrass this year. The number of participants is expected to increase to accommodate the needs of the biorefinery, and approximately 6,000 acres of switchgrass should be in production by 2010.
Genera Energy plans to have the demonstration biorefinery operational in early 2010, coinciding with the second annual harvest of switchgrass. Genera Energy is a limited liability company recently formed by the UT research foundation to manage the research, development and demonstration operations of the cellulosic ethanol biorefinery.
The new funding brings total combined federal and state government spending on regional bioenergy projects to about $230 million. Much of that, $135 million, was received by Oak Ridge National Laboratory from DOE last year for its Bioenergy Science Center.

Insulin Giant Novo Nordisk Adding Up to 400 Jobs in $20M New Jersey Expansion
Danish-owned Novo Nordisk, the world's largest insulin maker, will add between 211 and 400 employees to its Plainsboro, NJ, work force of 800 people under a $20 million expansion of its US headquarters.
Novo Nordisk cited a 150-percent increase in Plainsboro employees over the past five years, in a press release announcing the expansion. The company will lease a building across from its headquarters with capacity for more than 400 employees, as well as an in-house training facility capable of training 100 employees simultaneously.
Novo Nordisk is set to move later this year into the new facility, for which the company will pursue certification under the US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design or LEED program.
In return for its job promise — a minimum 211 jobs, a maximum 400 — the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, a state agency, has approved for Novo Nordisk $5.4 million under the state's Business Employment Incentive Program, as well as $1.8 million in other incentives including tax exemptions.
"It's rare that we can make an announcement that's a public-policy trifecta: good for public health, good for the economy, and good for the environment. Novo Nordisk is accomplishing all three,” New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine said in a press release trumpeting the company's expansion.

Massachusetts Adds Former South Weymouth Base to Growth District List
The former South Weymouth (Mass.) Naval Air Station has been named one of Massachusetts’ 16 “Growth” districts by Gov. Deval Patrick, who visited the former base April 24, the first governor to do so since the Navy shuttered the installation in 1997.
Under the growth district program, Massachusetts will designate 16 locations throughout the state with ready-to-develop sites for new life-science and other commercial projects, as well as residential or mixed-use projects [BRN, April 21].
Previously-named growth districts include downtown Haverhill, Mass.; the 190-acre Chicopee River Business Park; and an 81.5-acre district in Worcester, Mass., that includes Gateway Park — a venture of Worcester Polytechnic Institute and the public-private Worcester Business Development Corp. — as well the city’s Lincoln Square section.
The former naval air station, now known as SouthField, is the 1,442-acre site where Miami developer LNR Property plans to build 2,855 residences and 2 million square feet of commercial space — including an industrial park for biotech manufacturers — by 2017. The first 500 residences are under construction, with the first SouthField residents expected to move in next year. The project also includes retail space, a sports complex, athletic fields, and could accommodate a hotel and movie studio.
In January, Patrick announced the state would issue a $42.5 million state bond to pay for the construction of an east-west parkway through SouthField, connecting Route 18 in South Weymouth to Route 3 at Exit 14 in Rockland, Mass [BRN, Jan. 21].

Hamner Institutes for Health Sciences Signs RNAi Therapeutics Company
B3bio, an RNAi therapeutics company using a technology platform licensed from Duke University and the University of Texas, has joined the Hamner Accelerator for Translational Bioscience, part of the Hamner Institutes for Health Sciences ni Research Triangle Park, NC.
Founded in the first quarter of 2007, b3bio is working to develop a new class of medicines using small RNA molecules to target individual cells and tissues. Its founding partners are Dani Bolognesi, Bruce Sullenger, Andrew Ellington, and Robert Bonczek.
The Scan

Genome Sequences Reveal Range Mutations in Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells

Researchers in Nature Genetics detect somatic mutation variation across iPSCs generated from blood or skin fibroblast cell sources, along with selection for BCOR gene mutations.

Researchers Reprogram Plant Roots With Synthetic Genetic Circuit Strategy

Root gene expression was altered with the help of genetic circuits built around a series of synthetic transcriptional regulators in the Nicotiana benthamiana plant in a Science paper.

Infectious Disease Tracking Study Compares Genome Sequencing Approaches

Researchers in BMC Genomics see advantages for capture-based Illumina sequencing and amplicon-based sequencing on the Nanopore instrument, depending on the situation or samples available.

LINE-1 Linked to Premature Aging Conditions

Researchers report in Science Translational Medicine that the accumulation of LINE-1 RNA contributes to premature aging conditions and that symptoms can be improved by targeting them.