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Deals & Doings: Feb 2, 2009


Chapel Hill Council OKs UNC-Alexandria Innovation Center at Carolina North Campus

The Chapel Hill Town Council has unanimously approved a special-use permit for the three-story, 80,745-square-foot Innovation Center that the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill plans to co-develop with Alexandria Real Estate Equities as the first building within the school's proposed Carolina North campus.

The vote followed several months of negotiations between the town, UNC, and Alexandria, which would build, own and operate the center, the Carrboro (NC) Citizen reported. The vote ends months of speculation on the future of the project that began when UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp posted on his blog Nov. 19 that Alexandria had suspended work on the project due to the ongoing economic and financial market upheaval [BRN, Dec. 8, 2008].

Because the Innovation Center will not be owned by the university, it will come onto the town's tax rolls.

According to the newspaper, officials from Chapel Hill and the university continue to work on an overall development plan for the first two phases of the Carolina North project, estimated to include a mix of uses totaling 3 million square feet. The special-use permit requires stipulations that apply to Alexandria be carried over to the project, and UNC architect Anna Wu said the Innovation Center will become part of the larger Carolina North.

The permit was approved despite what the Citizen reported as a brief, sharp exchange between council member Jim Ward and UNC's associate vice chancellor of facilities and planning, Bruce Runberg. Ward demanded UNC build the Innovation Center to a higher energy-efficiency standard than that proposed by the university. Runberg defended the university and said the center would surpass its energy-efficiency goals.

Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies Opens New Headquarters in Port St. Lucie, Fla.

With more than 200 community, government, and science leaders in attendance, the Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies on Jan. 31 celebrated the grand opening of its $40 million, 103,000-square-foot headquarters within the Florida Center for Innovation at Tradition research campus.

The Torrey Pines facility is now home to seven principal investigators and 30 support staff, and is expected to employ nearly 200 people by 2016. The institute, which has a facility in San Diego, agreed to expand East into Florida after receiving a $90 million package of economic subsidies from the Florida Innovation Fund, the city of Port St. Lucie, St. Lucie County, Tradition developer Core Communities, Florida Atlantic University and the Economic Development Council of St. Lucie County.

TPIMS Founder and President Richard Houghten, and his wife Pam Houghten, announced at the grand opening they would create the Torrey Pines Ken Pruitt Jr. Florida Visionary Scholarship, named for the late son of Florida state Senator Ken Pruitt, a key supporter of Torrey Pines' expansion into Florida. Each year, the scholarship will be awarded through the St. Lucie Education Foundation to a St. Lucie County student who seeks to pursue studies in science.

Scientists at the institute conduct research into treatments against multiple sclerosis, cancer, heart disease, Types 1 and 2 diabetes, pain, inflammation, AIDS and other infectious diseases, transplant rejection, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Cellzome, Isogenica Take Last Available Mansion House Suites at UK's Chesterford Research Park

Drug discovery company Cellzome and Isogenica, a developer of molecular evolution technologies, have taken the last remaining space at the 19th Century-era Mansion House at Chesterford Research Park in Little Chesterford, UK, Business Weekly reported. The building is now fully occupied by 10 companies.

The research park's developers, Churchmanor Estates and Aviva Investors, refurbished the building after concluding the number and varying size of the individual rooms at Mansion House could meet demand for smaller flexible business space from start up companies, the publication reported.

Cellzome is expanding its Cambridge operations at Chesterford, taking Suite 8. The company is working on new kinase-targeted drugs to treat inflammatory diseases, and is moving 19 staffers into the newly refurbished write-up space to make way for additional lab space in its existing buildings at the research park. The company is expanding due to its collaboration with GlaxoSmithKline.

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Cellzome moved its UK headquarters from Elstree to Chesterford Research Park in April 2004.

Isogenica will relocate its research facility from Brabraham, taking suites 5 and 6, plus additional laboratory space at the mansion. Isogenica had outgrown its previous location due to the company's expansion since it was founded in 2000 by CEO Kevin Fitzgerald.

"We are a growing company and, due to a number of successful new business wins, we need additional space that will meet our needs both now and in the future," Fitzgerald told Business Weekly.

Other tenants at the mansion include Cellcentric, Cambridge Healthcare & Biotech, and Pulse Scientific.

Thermo Fisher Scientific Shells Out $28M for Soon-to-be-Vacated Dick's Sporting Goods HQ

Thermo Fisher Scientific has purchased the 189,000-square-foot Dick's Sporting Goods headquarters building in Findlay, Pa., with plans to move some of its 1,000 local employees there in about two years, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported.

Thermo paid $28 million for the building to seller USAA Real Estate Co. of San Antonio, Tex., company spokeswoman Karen Kirkwood told the newspaper. USAA, in turn, leased the building to Dick's.

Thermo plans to move employees of its Fisher Scientific laboratory catalog business from the 165,000-square-foot Park Lane office building in North Fayette in 2011, after its lease expires and Dick's moves to a 670,000-square-foot headquarters under construction near Pittsburgh International Airport.

Rochester, Minn., BioBusiness Center Set to Welcome First Occupants This Spring

The first workers are scheduled to move this spring into the eight-story, 124,000-square-foot Minnesota BioBusiness Center, a nearly completed, city-owned downtown office building that Rochester, Minn., officials view as an anchor to an expanded life sciences cluster, the local Post-Bulletin newspaper reported.

The building's largest tenant, Mayo Clinic Health Solutions, plans to move 150 employees by May or June into all of the fourth and fifth floors, and part of its sixth floor, at the BioBusiness Center, 221 First Ave. S.W., Steve VanNurden, a vice chairman for the Mayo Clinic branch focused on commercializing Mayo drugs and technology, told the newspaper.

Planning is under way for occupying the rest of floor 6 along with floors 7 and 8, although no timeline has been set, VanNurden said.

"It really gives us room to expand," VanNurden told the Post-Bulletin, adding that Mayo Clinic Health Solutions could add jobs at the center as it continues to grow.

The BioBusiness Center's other tenant, cardiology software developer Kardia Health Systems, will have eight employees move into half of the building's third floor starting about April 1, President George Danko told the Post-Bulletin. Kardia has the option of leasing the other half of the biobusiness center's third floor to give it a total of 12,000 square feet, he said, adding: "We're positioning for growth at this point."

Gary Smith, president of the Rochester Area Economic Development, told the newspaper his group and the city are in talks with a couple of serious prospects interested in leasing additional space, but those prospects aren't ready to sign leases.

Though the BioBusiness Center is projected to draw between 650 to 850 people to the downtown when fully leased, Smith acknowledged, the ongoing economic upheaval has made it harder for the building to attract restaurants and stores willing to lease space there. "It's just a tough environment right now," Doug Knott, the city's development director, told the newspaper.

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Interior Construction begins on UNLV Shadow Lane Biomedical Facility

McCarthy Building Companies announced that it has begun construction on the interior build-out of the Shadow Lane Biomedical Facility for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

The interior build-out, designed by SmithGroup of Phoenix, includes modifying 31,200 square feet of existing shell space into medical classrooms, laboratories, hospital simulation spaces, offices and study rooms. McCarthy said it will also install new mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems as well as relocating an existing chiller and other mechanical equipment.

Scheduled for completion in July 2009, the Shadow Lane Biomedical Facility was originally a state owned rehabilitation center that UNLV acquired to accommodate future growth in its nursing and dental medicine schools. The project was divided into multiple phases to allow the university to continue using the facility throughout construction.

McCarthy previously completed interior demolition and core and shell renovation of the former rehabilitation center. McCarthy upgraded the infrastructure of the 25,000-square-foot building by creating a "mid floor" between the facility's existing 23-foot ceiling and floor. The concrete work and use of a micropile foundation system allowed McCarthy to add an additional 15,000 square feet of future learning space.

BioBusiness Park at Elk Run Wins $1.2M Minnesota DEED Infrastructure Grant

The city of Pine Island, Minn. has won a $1.2 million state grant toward installation of $2.5 million in onsite infrastructure at the BioBusiness Park at Elk Run, now being built by Elk Run master planned community developer Tower Investments. The balance of the cost will be paid by the developer.

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development awarded the city a Bioscience Business Development Public Infrastructure Program grant, which "signals the next major step in bringing the BioBusiness Park at Elk Run from concept to reality," Geoff Griffin, Elk Run project manager for Tower Investments, said in a press release.

The Pine Island Council has authorized City Engineer Neil Britton of Widseth Smith Nolting to finalize project specifications and advertise for bids by mid-February, with bid awards expected by early- to mid-April of this year. Construction is expected to start by late May or early June of this year.

The city and Tower Investments signed a Master Development Agreement last June, allowing for an earlier phase of off-site infrastructure improvements [BRN, July 21, 2008].

The BioBusiness Park at Elk Run is the first step of Phase I development for the Elk Run master planned community. The mixed-use development will include residences as well as commercial, medical and bioscience facilities.

The Council also recently accepted Tower Investments' petition to annex an additional 27 acres along the west side of US Highway 52, where a new lift station and utilities lines will be extended.

American Peptide Company to Expand Vista, Calif., GMP Manufacturing Facility

American Peptide Company has announced a planned expansion of its GMP peptide manufacturing facility in Vista, Calif. The expansion will increase American Peptide's large-scale peptide production capacity, and enable it to continue to provide peptides to a growing base of pharmaceutical and biotech customers, the company said.

American Peptide said it will carry out a two-phase expansion entailing the construction of peptide purification and peptide synthesis suites. Four purification suites will be completed in the first phase and begin operation in April — a phase that will include new HPLC columns and tray lyophilizers.

The second construction phase includes two additional large-scale synthesis suites for both solution and solid phase, completion of which is projected for the second quarter. The expansion will result in the company having reactors of 1,000 L to 2,000 L for solution phase synthesis, in addition to reactors of 260 L to 500 L SPPS for solid phase synthesis. Storage capacity will be doubled, and a 200 L tray lyophilizer will be installed to accommodate large scale production, American Peptide said.

US Genomics Renews Lease for About 40,000 Sq. Ft. in Woburn, Mass.

Biotech company US Genomics has renewed its lease for nearly 40,000 square feet of office and laboratory space in Woburn, Mass. with landlord Cummings Properties, according to Mass High Tech.

US Genomics is headquartered at 12 Gill St., also called the Gill Street Life Sciences Cluster, where more than two dozen life sciences firms are located. Founded in 1997, US Genomics is a developer of single-molecule biology technologies for diagnostics and biodefense applications.

Bio-Matrix to Use Newly Completed 15K Sq. Ft. San Diego Facility for Banking Stem Cells

Bio-Matrix Scientific Group, a publicly held San Diego maker of disposable instruments for plastic surgeons, has signed its first contract to bank adult stem cells in its newly built 15,000-square-foot facility, off Rehco Road in Mira Mesa, with publicly held NeoCells and AdultCells, both owned by Illinois-based ViviCells, according to the San Diego Business Journal.

The cells, to be derived from umbilical cord blood and peripheral blood, will be kept frozen in the company's liquid nitrogen storage vats for possible future use by patients seeking treatment for a variety of illnesses. Bio-Matrix Chairman and CEO David Koos valued the NeoCells agreement alone at about $500,000 during the next 12 months, the newspaper reported.

CytRx Subleases New York City Office Space to Financial Advisory Firm Red Pine Advisors

Biopharmaceutical company CytRx has subleased the entire 5,829-square-foot 25th floor at 555 Madison Ave. in New York City's midtown Manhattan section for four years to financial advisory firm Red Pine Advisors.

Ramsey Feher of CB Richard Ellis, which announced the deal, represented sublessor CytRx, while First Service Williams represented Red Pine

Headquartered in Los Angeles, publicly-traded CytRx has a drug development pipeline that includes three clinical stage oncology drug candidates, including North American and European rights to tamibarotene for the treatment of relapsed or refractory APL, a type of leukemia.

The Scan

Expanded Genetic Testing Uncovers Hereditary Cancer Risk in Significant Subset of Cancer Patients

In Genome Medicine, researchers found pathogenic or likely pathogenic hereditary cancer risk variants in close to 17 percent of the 17,523 patients profiled with expanded germline genetic testing.

Mitochondrial Replacement Therapy Embryos Appear Largely Normal in Single-Cell 'Omics Analyses

Embryos produced with spindle transfer-based mitochondrial replacement had delayed demethylation, but typical aneuploidy and transcriptome features in a PLOS Biology study.

Cancer Patients Report Quality of Life Benefits for Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors

Immune checkpoint inhibitor immunotherapy was linked in JAMA Network Open to enhanced quality of life compared to other treatment types in cancer patients.

Researchers Compare WGS, Exome Sequencing-Based Mendelian Disease Diagnosis

Investigators find a diagnostic edge for whole-genome sequencing, while highlighting the cost advantages and improving diagnostic rate of exome sequencing in EJHG.