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Sequenom Wins $20M Economic Package on Promise of Creating 523 Jobs by 2013 in Grand Rapids, Mich.
 
San Diego-based Sequenom has chosen Grand Rapids, Mich., as the site of a new $20.25 million research site for its prenatal diagnostic testing technology that the company has promised will create 523 new jobs by 2013.
 
The company will buy existing lab space, with plans to expand in Grand Rapids by constructing its own labs, the Michigan Economic Development Corp. said in announcing the expansion last week.
 
Sequenom is a genetics and molecular diagnostic company providing genetic analysis products and services as well as diagnostic tests addressing prenatal genetic disorders, oncology, and infectious diseases. The company chose Grand Rapids over sites in Tennessee and Indiana.
 
In return for its promise of job creation, the company was awarded a $20 million, 12-year package of tax incentives by the Michigan Economic Development Corp.; the city of Grand Rapids; and the Right Place, a nonprofit economic development group serving the greater Grand Rapids region. An MEDC analysis concluded the project would also generate 618 spin-off jobs.
 
Sequenom’s permanent jobs will pay average weekly wages exceeding $1,700 a week — no small consideration in the Grand Rapids region, where unemployment has reached 6.4 percent, according to the Grand Rapids Press.
 

 
Max Planck Society Plans November Hire of Chief Scientist; Early 2009 Opening for Jupiter, Fla., Institute
 
The Max Planck Society hopes to hire by next month a chief scientist for its Jupiter, Fla., institute, and base a group of scientists in its temporary new facility when it opens on the MacArthur campus of Florida Atlantic University early next year.
 
Claudia Hillinger, the society's representative in Florida, offered projections for accomplishing both during a meeting of BioFlorida's Southeast Florida chapter at FAU, the Palm Beach Post reported. She said Max Planck scientists will work on the FAU Jupiter campus, at the Scripps Florida site set to open us in late February, pending construction of its own permanent facility.
 
"We see a fruitful collaboration with Scripps in the next few years," Hillinger said at the meeting, according to the Post. "We will focus on the diagnostic side while Scripps focuses on the therapeutic side."
 
Max Planck plans to create about 180 jobs at its 100,000-square-foot institute at FAU. Of the 180 jobs, 135 will be Max Planck staffers, and the rest from organizations it partners with.
 
The science giant based in Munich, Germany, has received approval for $86.9 million in incentives from the Palm Beach County Commission, in addition to a $94 million package of incentives from the state of Florida.
 
Hillinger said Max Planck hopes to achieve at least the same success in commercializing technologies developed in Florida as it has in its native Germany, where it has spun off more than 80 startup companies.
 
Meantime, Max Planck has sought to drum up public interest in its arrival through its Science Tunnel exhibit, set to make its US debut in Florida on Jan. 16.
 
The “tunnel” is a more-than-half mile exhibit equipped with 16 video projectors, 26 DVD players, and 14 sound systems designed to promote science to children. The exhibits — intended to answer questions such as "What is life?", “How does the brain work?” and "How do stars and planets originate?" — will run at least 10 weeks under a 10,000-square-foot tent on the grounds of the South Florida Science Museum in West Palm Beach.
 
Created in 2005, the exhibit has drawn about 170,000 visitors during earlier appearances in Tokyo, Singapore, Shanghai, Brussels, Johannesburg, Seoul, and Berlin.

"It's going to bring people to the county," West Palm Beach Mayor Lois Frankel told the Sun-Sentinel of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

 

Genzyme Marks Grand Opening of $125M Research Center in Framingham, Mass.
 
Genzyme has marked the grand opening of a new, $125 million, 180,000-square-foot Science Center in Framingham, Mass. The research site designed to house some 350 investigators and other staffers carrying out early stages of work on new treatments for Parkinson's disease, cancer, heart disease, and other ailments.
 
“Genzyme exists to innovate, and the Science Center reflects this purpose," Henri Termeer, Genzyme's chairman and CEO, said in a press release. "The work done at this facility will ensure that we can continue to bring forward therapies to significantly improve patients' lives and will help support the company's long-term growth.”
 
The Science Center’s design has offices and labs surrounding the building's six-story central atrium, connected by open meeting spaces in a design intended to foster collaboration.
 
ARC/Architectural Resources Cambridge served as project architect for the Science Center. The project engineer was Bard, Rao & Athanas Consulting Engineers; while Bovis Lend Lease LMB served as contractor.
 
Genzyme said the Science Center has received a Gold certification under the US Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, Green Building Rating System. It is one of only 10 laboratories to achieve this high rating, the company said.
 
Genzyme's core R&D operations are located in Framingham, though the company maintains an additional R&D site in Waltham, Mass., for polymer and small-molecule research; and a facility in Cambridge, UK, focused on monoclonal antibody research.
 
The Science Center is one component of an ongoing global expansion of the company's R&D and manufacturing infrastructure. Among projects is construction in Framingham of a new $250 million cell culture manufacturing facility. The 230,000-square-foot site is expected to be completed in 2011 and create approximately 300 new jobs.
In Allston, Mass., a $150 million expansion of the company's flagship cell-culture manufacturing facility began last year. The project, focused on adding space for manufacturing support functions, is expected to be completed in 2009 and create about 90 new jobs.
Also recently, Genzyme has laid a ceremonial foundation stone laying at the site of a new manufacturing plant in Lyon, France, for the production of thymoglobulin, a treatment used in transplantation.
 

 
Boston Biomedical Lands $9M NIH Grant for Center Focused on Muscular Dystrophy
 
The National Institutes of Health will fund biomarker studies for facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy through a $9 million grant to the Boston Biomedical Research Institute, BBRI said.
 
The funding will launch the Senator Wellstone Muscular Dystrophy Cooperative Research Center, named for the deceased Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota. The center will be headquartered at BBRI’s Watertown offices, and be co-directed by BBRI President Charles Emerson and Louis Kunkel, professor of genetics and pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and director of the genomics program at Children’s Hospital Boston.
 
The Wellstone Center will work with BBRI, the FSH Society, and industry partners Acceleron Pharmaa and Genzyme to identify molecular markers for use in monitoring the effectiveness of therapeutics during clinical trials, and to start a repository of FSHD-diseased and normal muscle stem cells for use in developing drug and cell-based therapeutics.
 
"We believe this research center model will bring discoveries from bench to bedside more rapidly than the traditional model, because we already have the full participation of the people with the most at stake in our work — the patients," Kunkel said in a statement.
 
One goal of the research is to develop biomarkers that can be used to help determine the safety and effectiveness of a new class of drugs that could enhance muscle strength and mass for those suffering FSHD. The aim is that these drugs can be used to help maintain muscle strength and physical function in FSHD patients.
 
Other collaborators include researchers at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, the University of Sao Paolo in Brazil, the University of Maryland School of Medicine, and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.
 
Two Cambridge biotech companies, Acceleron Pharma and Genzyme, will use the center to develop new drugs.
 

 
BRM Subsidiary Eyes 25 Jobs in Move to Baltimore’s UMB BioPark
 
Biomere, a subsidiary of Worcester, Mass.-based Biomedical Research Models, has signed a lease for 14,000 square feet to create a new corporate headquarters at the University of Maryland, Baltimore BioPark.
 
The company — formed to expand the vaccine platform developed at BRM — will move into its new space at Building Two, 801 West Baltimore St., in early 2009. Biomere plans to initially hire up to 25 employees, the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development said in a press release announcing the deal.
 
In the release, DBED Secretary David Edgerley said his office first met with the company last year during the Biotechnology Industry Organization’s 2007 International Convention, held in Boston.
 
DBED "has not yet determined any financing assistance for this company … They may be eligible for Job Creation Tax Credits and other tax credits and possibly some financing in the future, but nothing has been confirmed yet,” Karen Glenn Hood, a spokeswoman for the department, told BioRegion News last week.
 
BRM develops and uses specialty animal models for testing drugs designed to combat ailments that include arthritis, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.
 
Dennis Guberski, founder and CEO of BRM and Biomere’s chairman, cited “the close proximity to the University of Maryland, multiple government agencies and installations such as NIH and Fort Detrick, plus the concentration of more than 350 biotech companies” as reasons for expanding in Maryland, as well as state programs to assist life-sci companies.
 
BioPark is a $128 million campus that has created 200 jobs. The campus consists of 360,000 square feet in two multi-tenant buildings and a 638-space parking garage. Its buildings have been developed by Baltimore-based Wexford Science + Technology.
 

 
UT-Southwestern Biotech Park to Support Tech Development, Industry-Academia Pacts
 
Owners of a new biotechnology park currently under construction near the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas are betting it will spur technology commercialization and economic growth in the region by providing lab access and incubator space for startup and established companies, and by facilitating academic-industry collaboration and entrepreneurial training and resources, university officials said earlier this month.
 
UT-Southwestern said it bought the 13-acre site on which the park will be developed primarily with profits it received over the past several years from its technology-licensing program. It will also use some of these profits to finance part of the facility’s development over the next few years, a university official said.
 
The park, to be called BioCenter at Southwestern Medical District, next year plans to open the first of four buildings that will ultimately provide up to 500,000 square feet of laboratory and office space.
 
Though BioCenter is being designed particularly to help nurture technologies developed in UT-Southwestern’s research labs, it will also provide commercial space for existing life-science startups from around the state and for established companies wishing to forge a collaborative bond with the school, Dennis Stone, vice president for technology development at UT-Southwestern, said in a statement.
 
First and foremost, however, BioCenter will help fledgling university biomedical companies gain a foothold by providing them with what the university calls “high-quality” laboratory space and other important business services.
 
“Dallas has lacked quality commercial space for companies in the biomedical industry, especially early-stage companies,” Lawrence Allred, assistant vice president for venture development at UT-Southwestern, wrote in an e-mail to BRN sister publication Biotech Transfer Week.
 
“Previous start-up companies arising out of UT-Southwestern technologies have located elsewhere due to the lack of local biomedical commercial space,” Allred added. “BioCenter at Southwestern Medical District will help satisfy that need.”
 
Allred said that the BioCenter will be designed to provide support “across the spectrum of technology commercialization from concept, through R&D, and even small-scale manufacturing; [and] will provide the capability to advance commercial-quality technologies from the earliest stage as they emerge from academic laboratories through full commercial development in mature biomedical companies.”
 
Those “mature” companies may also end up being located at the BioCenter if UT-Southwestern has its druthers. According to Allred, the BioCenter is designed to be a fully capable industrial venue for biomedical companies of any size, and there is no requirement that the companies arise from UT-Southwestern technology or have pre-existing university ties.
 
Besides having access to brand new office space and wet labs, tenants will be able to interact with resident UT-Southwestern bioengineering faculty; will be co-located with the university’s IP-management offices; and can associate with local venture-capital networks such as Richardson-based STARTech Early Ventures.
 
Furthermore, the research park’s location 10 minutes from Dallas’ Love Field airport and within the Southwestern Medical District, which is associated with Children’s Medical Center, Parkland Health Systems, and UT Southwestern University Hospital, could provide opportunities for tenant companies to form research collaborations and other relationships with academic and medical entities.
 
Perhaps most important, especially for young companies, will be that they will have preferred access to a number of research core facilities at UT-Southwestern, including but not limited to cores in protein chemistry and sequencing; mass spectrometry; peptide synthesis; microscopy; biochemical kinetics; DNA microarrays; mouse laboratories; flow cytometry; analytical ultracentrifugation; X-ray crystallography; synthetic chemistry and chemical synthesis; DNA sequencing; and concierge services and assistance for all aspects of clinical and translational research.
 
According to Allred, startup companies will be offered “price advantages” as compared with more established biotech entities, which will lease space at market rates. Allred added that negotiations are underway with several undisclosed biomedical companies about leasing space in the first BioCenter building.
 
Doug Rasor, vice president of emerging medical technology and chair of biotech-based economic-development group BioDFW, said in a statement that TI “welcomes the establishment of this center. We expect semiconductor technology to play a key role in some projects … with the goal of commercializing breakthrough research in the medical device and health care fields.”
 
Texas Instruments “has a major strategic program” on emerging medical applications for semiconductors, Allred said, while AT&T is providing BioCenter $750,000 over five years to help tenants support training in entrepreneurship, UT-Southwestern said. The contribution will help establish an entrepreneurial center within the BioCenter devoted to providing researchers with business training.
 
The site for BioCenter was purchased with profits the school has received over the past several years from technology transfer. Since 1984, more than 550 researchers from UT-Southwestern have been named inventors on more than 1,200 invention disclosures that together have yielded more than 360 issued US patents, the university said.
 
In addition, some 300 licensing agreements involving those patents have generated more than $110 million for the school since 1984, with more than $40 million generated in the last four years, according to UT-Southwestern.
 
“There are funds that have been received as a result of multiple successes with past licenses and start-up companies,” Allred said. “Some of this has been used to purchase the land and support early steps in the development.”
 
He added that building construction is being funded through standard commercial financing mechanisms. “The university as a borrower is highly rated and as a result has a relatively lower cost of capital,” Allred said.
 

 
SC Research Authority, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston Unveil Plans for Innovation Center
 
The South Carolina Research Authority, Medical University of South Carolina, and the city of Charleston unveiled a preliminary building design last week for an “innovation center” for life-sci and other startup companies at 645 Meeting St. in Charleston, on the site of a long-vacant former mattress factory. The center, to be located just north of the Ravenel Bridge, will include wet lab and equipment space, primarily in concert with MUSC researchers.
 
“We envision this innovation center will help attract more scientists, generate more research and improve our ability to commercialize intellectual property,” Ray Greenberg, MUSC President, said in a press release.
 
In addition, this space will provide a community meeting room and a police department substation, Charleston Mayor Joe Riley said in the release, adding: “The jobs created through the center demonstrate opportunity for the community to participate in the 21st century economy.”
 
Mahoney said the city provided the site for the innovation center, which it views as a “technology-based cornerstone for the upper Meeting Street area that will complement nearby retail and residential developments.”
 
SCRA has provided funding and support for 83 new knowledge-based start-ups in South Carolina since its inception in April, 2006 through its SC Launch program. According to a recent survey by The University of South Carolina Moore School of Business, jobs facilitated by SCRA and SC Launch! provided per capita annual wages between $55,000 and $77,000 in 2007.
 

 
UC-San Diego Leases 48,300 Sq. ft. Former Schering Plough Building in Torrey Pines
The University of California-San Diego has agreed to lease a 48,200-square-foot biotech research building in the city, at 3525 John Jay Hopkins Court. UCSD will use the two-story building for several research divisions, the San Diego Business Journal reported.
 
Located in the city's Torrey Pines submarket, the property was completed in 1991 and formerly occupied by Schering Plough. Grubb and Ellis|BRE Commercial represented both UCSD and building owner Del Mar Partnership, in the 10-year lease.
 

 
RainDance Dedicates New Headquarters, Manufacturing Facility in Lexington, Mass.
 
RainDance Technologies, a provider of droplet-based microfluidic solutions for human health and disease research, last week dedicated its new headquarters and operations building and unveiled its new RDT 1000 instrument.
 
"RainDance technology has the potential to accelerate breakthroughs in genomic research and fulfill the promise of personalized medicine," said Sir Richard Roberts, 2003 Nobel Prize winner for physiology and medicine and founder and chief scientific officer of New England Biolabs. Roberts keynoted the Sept. 26 dedication by RainDance of its new HQ and operations building.
 
Chris McNary, RainDance president and CEO, cited the $1 billion, 10-year Life Sciences Initiative signed into law in June by Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick as a key reason his company relocated the company’s operations from Connecticut: "We liked what we saw in Massachusetts. Its access to life science talent, state research grants, and the customer base of the greater Boston-Cambridge area were important requirements for our growing company."
 
During the ceremony, the company unveiled a rendering of the RDT 1000 instrument, the centerpiece of its new Sequence Enrichment solution for the targeted genomic sequencing market. The technology will be introduced to market during the fourth quarter, with commercial launch of the RDT 1000 scheduled for the first quarter of 2009.

The Scan

Two J&J Doses

Johnson & Johnson says two doses of its SARS-CoV-2 vaccine provides increased protection against symptomatic COVID-19, CNN reports.

Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine Response in Kids

The Pfizer-BioNTech SARS-CoV-2 vaccine in a lower-dose format appears to generate an immune response among children, according to the Washington Post.

Chicken Changes to Prevent Disease

The Guardian writes that researchers are looking at gene editing chickens to help prevent future pandemics.

PNAS Papers on Siberian Dog Ancestry, Insect Reproduction, Hippocampal Neurogenesis

In PNAS this week: ancestry and admixture among Siberian dogs, hormone role in fruit fly reproduction, and more.