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Deals & Doings, Jan 19, 2009

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Vertex Renews Leases for 292K Sq. Ft. of Existing Space in Two Cambridge, Mass., Buildings

Vertex Pharmaceuticals will not fulfill its goal of consolidating all employees at a single facility until at least 2015, as the Cambridge, Mass., drug discoverer signed renewal leases expiring that year for a combined 292,000 square feet at two buildings it occupies in the city.

Vertex will continue to lease 192,000 square feet at 200 Sidney St., as well as its 100,000-square-foot headquarters at 130 Waverly St., from the owner of both buildings, BioMed Realty Trust. The San Diego-based publicly-traded real estate investment trust announced the lease renewals on Jan. 15, in a press release that trumpeted the REIT's "proactive approach to leasing and renewals" — namely pursuing the renewal of the Cambridge leases more than a year before they were set to expire.

Vertex leases a combined 600,000 square feet at its Cambridge buildings, where it occupies a combined 500,000 square feet; the remaining 100,000 square feet, all at 675 W. Kendall Square, is subleased to Genzyme and Momenta Pharmaceuticals.

Vertex spokesman Zach Barber would not discuss what commercial real estate professionals have speculated was a key factor in the renewals — the collapse of a lease deal trumpeted last summer in Boston-area newspapers. The deal, which Vertex never confirmed, would have consolidated Vertex operations within 500,000 square feet at Fan Pier, a development planned for the South Boston waterfront by local developer Joseph Fallon [BRN, Aug. 11, 2008].

But by November, after Fallon struggled to raise financing for Fan Pier due to the economic upheaval, one local newspaper report had Vertex in talks for renewing some 300,000 square feet of space in Cambridge [BRN, Nov. 10, 2008].

"We always said that staying in Cambridge was an option. What the lease extensions do is give us the flexibility now to continue looking at other options where we can consolidate our employees into one location, and we'll do that over the next several years. Ultimately, our goal is to consolidate the employee base into one location," Barber told BioRegion News. "We'll spend the next several years looking at other options in the Greater Boston area for expansion and consolidation."

Vertex leases approximately 685,000 square feet at five BioMed properties, including approximately 604,000 total square feet in Cambridge and 81,000 square feet in San Diego.


Battelle Memorial Foundation Announces $200M Renovation of Columbus, Ohio, Offices, Labs; New Projects in Dublin, West Jefferson

The Battelle Memorial Foundation, which says it is the world's largest nonprofit research and development organization, announced plans last week for a $200 million series of projects that include the modernization and renovation of its Columbus, Ohio, offices, as well as other facilities in two nearby Central Ohio communities.

Battelle said it would renovate its offices and laboratories at its King Avenue campus, in part by incorporating energy-efficient technologies suitable for certification under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design building standards developed by the US Green Building Council. That work, Battelle said, would enable it to create more than 200 new science and research jobs.

Also in Columbus, Battelle also is expanding and upgrading its biomedical research facilities to strengthen its safety and efficacy evaluation capabilities for clients in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, and well as the food sector. The foundation will build a new, 16,000-square foot Battelle Discovery Center, a day care and early education center for children of employees.

In West Jefferson, Ohio, Battelle will construct a new health and life sciences research laboratory slated for operation in 2011. Battelle said the new facility would further expand its capabilities in biomedical research and development.

In Dublin, Ohio, Battelle said it plans to renew the lease and expand capabilities at its Blazer Parkway production facility to boost light manufacturing capacity and increase production of key electronic components used by medical customers and the US military.

Battelle last year opened a new armor assembly facility in West Columbus, Ohio.


Choose Worcester (Mass.), Grafton Science Park Operator Pursue Biomanufacturer Seeking Site Through MAED

One local organization and another development group have responded to a request for proposals issued by the Massachusetts Alliance for Economic Development on behalf of an undisclosed company that contacted the private, nonprofit group, seeking sites in the Bay State where it can establish a 650,000-square-foot manufacturing plant for biopharmaceutical research and development, including in vivo animal testing, the Worcester Business Journal reported.

Choose Worcester, a nonprofit organization that promotes economic development in the city, responded to the request by pitching a site near the Worcester Regional Airport. Also responding was the company that runs the Grafton Science Park for Tufts University's Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, the newspaper reported.

According to the RFP, the site must be able to provide 12,500 therms of natural gas a month and the average daily water use is 20,000 liters and its waste discharge is estimated to be 10,000 pounds a month. The building needs to be between 60 and 90 feet high. It must be a flat site and be zoned for bio-manufacturing.


Lonza Bioscience Plans $26M Building, 80 New Jobs in Walkersville, Md.

A growing market for its cell therapy program has allowed Lonza Bioscience to expand its Walkersville, Md., site with a $26 million new building and 80 new staffers, the Frederick (Md.) News-Post reported.

The new 44,000-square-foot building will house three Class 10,000 cell production sites and office space. The building will be linked to the existing warehouse at Lonza with a two-level connector.

Lonza began planning for the new building in 2007, the year it acquired the bioscience division of Cambrex. The Biggs Ford Road site was initially opened as BioWhittaker, but was later acquired by Cambrex. Lonza acquired Cambrex's division in 2007 for $460 million.

About 450 people are employed at the site, in cell-based research, endotoxin detection and cell therapy manufacturing positions, the News-Post reported.

Completion of the new building is expected in fall 2009. The design team for the new building includes Baltimore-based architects ArchTech Design, and Kensington, Md.-based mechanical engineering firm Encon Group, which together have worked on more than 20 different projects at the 11-acre Lonza Walkersville site.


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UC Berkeley Slowing Construction of Phase 2 Li Ka Shing Center for Biomedical and Health Sciences

The University of California, Berkeley, is slowing construction of the 200,000-square-foot building that comprises the second phase of the Li Ka Shing Center for Biomedical and Health Sciences, because the school is unsure how much funding it will receive toward construction of the facility from the state, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Nathan Brostrom, the school's vice chancellor for administration, told the Chronicle that UC is expecting a budget cut of about $45 million from the $500 million it usually receives from the state.


Med Device Marketer Emerges as Frontrunner Among Would-be Tenants for Surprise, Ariz., City Hall

A company that markets medical devices is the front-runner among three would-be tenants interested in leasing the City Hall building to be vacated by the city of Surprise, Ariz., when it moves to a new municipal facility this summer, the Arizona Republic reported.

City Manager Randy Oliver told the Republic he is in talks with the firm and could finalize an agreement soon; a deal could be announced as early as February. The med device marketer, whose identity is not being disclosed by city officials, was among three respondents to a formal request for proposals for reusing the 58,000-square-foot building, at 12425 W. Bell Road. Respondents were limited to biotech and pharmaceutical production companies that the city believes will create high-wage jobs.

The city has no plans to sell the building, which is valued at more than $8.6 million. Also ruled out by the city are plans to return the building to retail use. Before it became City Hall, the building was a shopping center that included restaurants and a beauty salon.


NC Biotechnology Center Eyes Laboratory Use for Former Elizabeth City Middle School

A committee of the Pasquotank County Board of Commissioners has agreed to gather details and costs on a wide variety of options for redeveloping the former Elizabeth City Middle School building — including a plan to turn the facility into a laboratory building, according to the Daily Advance of Elizabeth City, NC.

Wayne Harris, director of the Albemarle Economic Development Commission, said the Eastern North Carolina office of the state-funded North Carolina Biotechnology Center was interested in using the facility for laboratory space. Representatives from the center plan to examine the building's interior in January, he said.

Another option: Convert the former school to a teaching clinic for the East Carolina University School of Dentistry. County Manager Randy Keaton, who favors the dental clinic option, and county Commissioner Lloyd Griffin noted that the nearby College of The Albemarle also could offer a dental hygienist program in the building. Griffin said in keeping with the former school's past use, he hoped to keep job training and work force development as part of the building's future use.

The committee asked county staff to develop estimates for demolition of the school.


German Maker of Biotech Robotics Opens US Offices in Cheyenne, Wyo.

Vulkan Technic Maschinen-Konstruktion, a German manufacturer of customized robotics for the biotechnology, automotive, glass, food, and beverage industries, has signed agreements with the private nonprofit Cheyenne (Wyo.)-Laramie County Corporation for Economic Development, also known as Cheyenne LEADS, to open its first North American plant in Cheyenne, according to the Wyoming Business Report.

Vulkan is expected to employ 10 people by the end of 2009, and more in the future. Cheyenne LEADS began discussions with Vulkan after responding to a request for information through the Wyoming Business Council. Vulkan toured several Wyoming communities with the WBC last July, before selecting Cheyenne.

Gregor Trierscheid, Vulkan's manager for North American operations, told the newspaper the company sought to locate near the University of Wyoming and Denver International Airport. Edgar Caspers, managing director of Vulkan Technic, told the Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune says he hopes to build a relationship with the university that's similar to the company's relationship with Germany's University of Pforzheim.

Founded in 1995, Vulkan has its global headquarters in Wiesbaum, Germany, one hour south of Cologne.


Seller of Used Lab Equipment, Asset Management Services, Opens New Fremont, Calif., Site

BioSurplus, a San Diego seller of used laboratory equipment and asset management services for the life science industry, has opened a new 10,000-square-foot facility in Fremont, Calif., that includes a showroom, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported. BioSurplus has also added to its staff three people to manage the new facility and support Northern California customers.


Biotech Startup Plans Expansion Move to Cocoa, Fla., Following $12K Tax Exemption, Tax Credits from Brevard County

Biomedical startup GeNO has been approved by the Brevard County Commission for up to $73,945 in tax credits toward a move to Grissom Ridge Commerce Park in Cocoa, Fla., where it plans to create 12 jobs, according to Florida Today of Melbourne, Fla. The new Cocoa facility is a $1.1 million, 6,000-square-foot space on Oxbow Circle that is expected to open in April. A second building on Oxbow Circle will be built later on when the company advances toward drug production.

GeNO, which now employs six people, will receive county tax credits over 10 years if it creates the new jobs in the next 18 months with annual salaries of $80,000. In addition to county tax credits, GeNO will also receive a 60 percent tax exemption over three years from Cocoa, projected to save the company $12,000; and a 50 percent waiver of the cost for building permits and water and sewer fees.

GeNO may also hire an additional 10 people, the company's president and chemist David Fine told the newspaper.

GeNO focuses on making drugs and devices involving nitric oxide to treat medical conditions such as pulmonary edema, pulmonary hypertension, altitude sickness, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD. One key challenge is confining the gas, typically administered from large tanks, into smaller, portable containers.

Fine is a cofounder of Orlando-based CyTerra, a supplier of mine-sweeping and bomb-detection devices used in Iraq and Afghanistan that was sold in 2006 to L3 Communications for an undisclosed sum.

GeNO is one of at least a dozen biotech companies and research institutes that have taken root on the Space Coast in recent years, many of them in Titusville and southern Brevard, Florida Today reported.

The Scan

Renewed Gain-of-Function Worries

The New York Times writes that the pandemic is renewing concerns about gain-of-function research.

Who's Getting the Patents?

A trio of researchers has analyzed gender trends in biomedical patents issued between 1976 and 2010 in the US, New Scientist reports.

Other Uses

CBS Sunday Morning looks at how mRNA vaccine technology could be applied beyond SARS-CoV-2.

PLOS Papers Present Analysis of Cervicovaginal Microbiome, Glycosylation in Model Archaea, More

In PLOS this week: functional potential of the cervicovaginal microbiome, glycosylation patterns in model archaea, and more.