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UT Southwestern Medical Center BioCenter, OpGen, Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, University of Arizona, Huntington Area Development Council, Chapel Hill Innovation Center, Esperion, Life Science and Innovation Center, Santa Fe Co

UT Southwestern Med Center Plans 500K Sq. Ft. BioCenter to Boost Research, Draw Bio Companies
University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas last week announced plans to build a 500,000-square-foot life sciences campus designed to help it commercialize university technologies and draw biotechnology companies to North Texas.
UT Southwestern will develop in four phases its new BioCenter at Southwestern Medical District, on a 13-acre site purchased from the city of Dallas for $4.1 million and located near the medical center’s campus on Inwood Road. Each phase will consist of a single three-story, 120,000-square-foot building, with the four buildings to be connected by a sky bridge, and served by two attached parking garages.
The first of the campus’ four buildings is expected to be ready for occupancy in summer 2009. The first floor will offer up to 14,500 square feet of lab and office space for startups, while the second and third floors will feature space built to suit individual tenants. The building will also include a medical device engineering facility.
Dennis Stone, vice president for technology development at UT Southwestern, said in a press release that the BioCenter “will serve the entire spectrum of the biotechnology and biodevice industry, providing a nurturing environment for early-stage and mature companies alike.”
The campus will also accommodate existing life-science companies that want to locate close to the university and its resources, in addition to UT Southwestern startups, Stone added.
Site plans call for 60 percent laboratory space and 40 percent office space, as well as space for shared administrative services and conferences. UT Southwestern will provide BioCenter tenants with access to several core research facilities, including equipment for DNA and protein sequencing, mass spectroscopy, imaging, and microarray analysis. UT Southwestern’s core facilities are part of the university’s Institute for Innovations in Medical Technologies, which has received $8 million in funding from the Texas Legislature.
Among corporate supporters, Dallas-based AT&T will provide $750,000 over five years toward creation within BioCenter of an entrepreneurial center focused on training researchers in business skills needed toward tech commercialization.
PageSoutherlandPage of Dallas will provide architectural services, while Gilbane Building, which has a Dallas office, will oversee construction of the facility.
BioCenter will rise on 15.5 acres near the medical center’s campus, a site purchased from the city of Dallas for $4.1 million. The BioCenter site was purchased with profits that UT Southwestern received from its technology transfer program. UT Southwestern has generated more than $110 million from more than 300 licenses since 1984 — $40 million of that over the past four years.

OpGen Opens Gaithersburg, Md., HQ, as Talks Continue on $200K from Maryland Tied to Workforce Expansion
OpGen Technologies last week celebrated the opening of its new 15,000-square-foot headquarters and production lab-manufacturing space on Quince Orchard Road in Gaithersburg, Md., in a ceremony that drew Montgomery County Executive Isaiah Leggett, county economic development officials, and their counterparts from the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development.
DBED has offered OpGen a $200,000 state loan conditioned on the company growing from its current workforce of 44 to at least 100 employees over the next 36 months, a spokeswoman for the agency, Karen Glenn Hood, told BioRegion News. The company had not presented a formal response to DBED at deadline, but is expected to approve the deal. In addition, Montgomery County will give the company another $20,000 toward the fit-out of its space in the new HQ.
"We've already put $500,000 into this building and we're looking forward to using the state money to help get our manufacturing operation online," Noel Doheny, OpGen’s CEO since January, told the Gazette of Gaithersburg.
OpGen, which focuses on genome optical mapping, moved its operations earlier this year from Madison, Wisc., to the Montgomery County Business Innovation Network incubator, from which it graduated in four months. The move coincided with a venture capital award of an undisclosed amount from investor Evan Jones, former CEO of Digene [BRN, Aug. 4].
Last year, the company raised $23.6 million of first round venture capital from five participants: CHL Medical Partners, Highland Capital Partners, Versant Ventures, Mason Wells and the CIA’s investor arm, In-Q-Tel.
OpGen has hired 15 employees since the incubator graduation, and has said it plans to grow its staff to 100 people over the next two years.
The new location “will allow OpGen to better serve and satisfy our global customer base and provide enhanced access to users and thought leaders in the area,” Doheny said in a press release. “This new Gaithersburg facility will allow us to rapidly expand our footprint and capabilities in this emerging field.”
OpGen moved into space formerly occupied by Gene Logic, a biotech company that sold its genomics assets to Ocimum Biosolutions last year and is now known as Ore Pharmaceuticals.
Hoping to draw more companies like OpGen, Montgomery County recently established a BioSciences Task Force consisting of public and private sector biotech leaders who advise the county on strategies and practices for growing the county’s life-sci industry.

Developer Presses for Relocating Planned Arizona Cancer Center from Phoenix to Suburb
Developer Tom Hornaday has publicly asked the University of Arizona to consider putting the planned new Arizona Cancer Center in the Phoenix suburbs of Chandler, Ariz., and Surprise, Ariz., rather than in the city’s downtown, the Arizona Republic reported.
Hornaday argued that patients need a center in the sort of resort-like setting that is more likely to exist in the suburbs than in downtown Phoenix. But Judy Bernas, an associate vice president at UA, told the Republic that the university has no change of plans in mind: “That which was envisioned on the Phoenix campus is what we will do.”
Hornaday is a longtime board member of the Arizona Cancer Center, and a donor to the center who funded a 110,000-square-foot medical facility at Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale. The developer also sits on a committee of the Flinn Foundation, and has launched a fund named for his daughter to benefit skin-cancer research at the Translational Genomics Institute.
Hornaday has discussed with Chandler officials his concept of building a cancer facility near Kyrene Road and Loop 202, an area where Chandler owns 56 acres and has an option to buy 31 additional acres. The developer has also talked to Sunrise officials about building the cancer center in an 80-acre site surrounding the city's spring-training stadium near Greenway Road and Civic Center Drive, where the city has sought to draw biotech and medical employers.
Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon responded by telling the newspaper he wants UA to instead reaffirm a four-year-old commitment to build the center in his city: "While outsiders are trying to put together a speculative real-estate deal, it risks slowing down and diverting the attention necessary to continue the momentum to build the biomedical campus.”
Gordon’s comments follow a string of disappointments in Phoenix’s life-sci effort. One was last year’s relocation of a planned $70 million cancer center from a downtown site near Loop 101 and Thomas Road to Goodyear, Ariz. Earlier this year, talks collapsed for a Banner teaching hospital on UA's downtown Phoenix medical-school campus.

Genzyme Shells Out $16M for 100K Sq. Ft. Framingham, Mass., Building
Biotechnology company Genzyme confirmed to the Boston Globe last week that it has purchased a 100,000-square-foot industrial building on New York Avenue in Framingham for nearly $16 million.
The Cambridge, Mass., company told the Globe that it plans to use the building to house tools and construction materials while it builds a $250 million manufacturing plant on an adjacent property. Eventually, it could provide room to expand the campus, where 2,000 people, or 20 percent of the company's workforce, are employed.
Genzyme plans to undertake a two-year expansion of its facilities, which will include new office space and a new cell culture manufacturing facility and purification plant. In June, state officials agreed to assist Genzyme by setting aside for the town $12.9 million toward water and sewer system improvements from the $1 billion, 10-year Life Sciences Initiative signed into law by Gov. Deval Patrick in June [BRN, June 16]. Genzyme has promised in return to would add 400 to 600 workers to its Framingham workforce of 1,600 as a result of the expansion.

Huntington, WV, Development Group Crafts Five-Year Plan, with Life Sciences, Tech in Mind
The Huntington (W. Va.) Area Development Council has crafted a five-year plan intended to draw more high-wage, tech-based jobs to the region. HADCO has set a goal of attracting at least 2,000 jobs, with wages high enough to support a family, to the Huntington area over the next five years, Jerry McDonald, the council’s president, told the Herald-Dispatch of Huntington.
To achieve its goal, HADCO plans to recruit businesses in sectors where the region has a competitive advantage — which includes biotechnology as well as the automotive industry, metalworking, and transportation.
On Sept. 19, Huntington saw some of its economic development retention work pay off, when medical device maker Alcon broke ground on a second plant in Cabell County, within HADCO Business Park, which will manufacture intraocular lenses used in cataract surgery. The new plant will allow Alcon to add 350 new employees to its existing workforce of 700.
The goals of the comprehensive five-year plan were honed following a survey of 50 local companies conducted by Funding Solutions of Austin, Tex. Goals include:
  • Attracting higher-paying jobs to the area;
  • Helping to keep local businesses here and help them grow — similar to the success story with — Alcon, which already has 700 employees at its local plant;
  • Facilitating the startup of more technology-based businesses, including a public relations campaign to promote math, science, and technology education to local students;
  • Developing a 100-acre site that has infrastructure in place, and;
  • Constructing five more shell buildings to accommodate new business.
HADCO is also raising money for its work through a $3 million fundraising campaign that McDonald told the Herald-Dispatch has already raised 85 percent of its goal; the target is expected to be reached by the end of October.
In recent months, HADCO has also added more local executives to its roughly 20-member board and boosted its paid staff to three. The development council plans to add an ombudsman who would work with companies to address their needs; create a "rapid response" team to woo businesses to the Huntington area; and establish a pool of money for incentives to businesses that expand in the region.
HADCO has joined with Marshall University to build a new incubator site for biotech businesses, inside an expanded forensic science center at Marshall, to be finished next year. HADCO also wants to create more seed capital for commercialization of biotech research at Marshall.

Hearing Draws Supporters of Innovation Center Planned for Chapel Hill, NC

Business, technology, and academic leaders in Chapel Hill, NC, last week urged the Town Council to approve a special use permit for a proposed Innovation Center for businesses that have outgrown incubator space at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, the Herald-Sun of Durham, NC, reported.

Supporters at a Sept. 17 public hearing cited economic development considerations and research opportunities. Shelton Earp, director of UNC's Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, said the center could fill a niche created as pharmaceutical giants have moved away from development their own drugs.

The first building on UNC's Carolina North research campus, the 80,754-square-foot Innovation Center, would sit at Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Municipal Drive.

The project would include transportation-related improvements on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, plus a change in Chapel Hill’s Land Use Management Ordinance to allow the landscape buffer between the Innovation Center and the road. In addition to constructing a curb, gutter, and a bike lane along MLK, UNC wants to install a lawn with ornamental trees, a sidewalk, a low Chatham stone wall similar to that which runs along parts of the main campus and other lawn and tree elements between the sidewalk and the Innovation Center.

The public hearing will continue on Oct. 27.


Esperion’s President/CEO Nears Deal to Move Firm Back to Michigan’s Plymouth Township
Roger Newton, the founder, president and CEO of Esperion Therapeutics, who re-launched the firm earlier this year after acquiring intellectual property from Pfizer, told the Ann Arbor Business Review he is close to signing a deal to locate his company in Plymouth Township, Mich.
Esperion is likely to move into its old 57,518-square-foot building, one of several buildings Pfizer shut down last year when it announced plans to vacate its research operations in Ann Arbor and displace more than 2,100 workers. Pfizer acquired Esperion for $1.3 billion in 2004.
The Michigan Economic Development Corp., Ann Arbor SPARK, and the Greater Wayne Economic Development Corp. this summer announced they were pooling $3.5 million to acquire the building from Pfizer. The deal would turn the building into the Life Science and Innovation Center, a multi-tenant site for about 10 biotech startup companies, including Esperion.
"It appears that there's a good chance that this is going to happen, but until the ink is dry, you never know," Newton told the newspaper after addressing the University of Michigan's Entrepalooza Symposium.
Newton, a co-discoverer of the cholesterol-reduction drug Lipitor, said his company has the equivalent of 8.5 employees. He declined to furnish company growth projections to the Business Review.

Santa Fe Adds $1.1M to Cost of Alachua Center, Now Set to Cost $7.8M
The Santa Fe College Board of Trustees has approved transferring $1.1 million from a remodeling fund to the budget of the Alachua Center, a 20,000-square-foot, primarily life sciences building whose first phase is set to open in August 2009, the Gainesville (Fla.) Sun reported.
The transfer has raised the cost of constructing the Alachua Center to $7.8 million. The college initially proposed a 34,000-square-foot building, but has scaled back its plans as construction costs have zoomed over the past two years from the original budget of $6.7 million, set in 2005.
The building is being constructed so that it can be added on to as additional money becomes available for expansion.
Chuck Clemons, Santa Fe's vice president for development, told the Sun two factors combined to raise the project’s price tag — a doubling of the price of diesel fuel, and the rising cost of site preparation, including how deep crews needed to dig for part of the project work.
Part of the money — $3.4 million — was donated by the City of Alachua and 89 private donors, and qualified Santa Fe for a state matching grant.

Incubator at North Carolina’s Piedmont Triad Research Park Expands Wet Lab

Wake Forest University’s Babcock Demon Incubator in Winston-Salem, NC, will expand its 780-square-foot wet lab with an eye to accommodating multiple startup life sciences companies.
The wet lab is already home to two early stage bioscience startups — Creative Bioreactor Design, a designer of equipment needed to grow tissue and organs in the regenerative medicine market; and Salzburg Therapeutics, the developer of nanomedicine therapeutics for prostate cancer.
As the project matures, the BDI will be able to support six bioscience or nanotechnology startup ventures annually, WFU said in a statement. Building upon the success of the $740,000 Wet Lab LaunchPad, which opened last year and is housed in the Richard H. Dean Biomedical Research Building [BRN, Dec. 31, 2007], BDI intends to supply a pipeline of companies who could become potential LaunchPad candidates for their next stage of development.
Tengion Inc. and Carolina Liquid Chemistries occupy two of the three spaces in the 5,000-square-foot LaunchPad.
At BDI, companies and entrepreneurs will be selected “based on the commercial viability of the idea, the potential for high growth, and the likelihood of success of the venture,” WFU said in a statement. Further information is available here.
BDI operates under the WFU Babcock School of Management’s Angell Center for Entrepreneurship. BDI's goals are to increase the number and quality of growth-oriented early stage ventures in the Triad, support intellectual property commercialization activities at Wake Forest, foster experiential entrepreneurial education, and contribute to the growth of entrepreneurship in the local community.

BDI sits within the in the Piedmont Triad Community Research Center, within the Piedmont Triad Research Park. PTRP comprises six buildings that provide more than 554,000 square feet of wet lab, office, meeting and residential space. Within PTRP are 42 technology tenants that employ a combined more than 850 university and corporate staffers.


RainDance Cites $1B Mass. Life-Sci Initiative in Basing New HQ/Manufacturing Facility in Lexington
RainDance Technologies, a provider of droplet-based microfluidic solutions for genomics research, gene expression analysis, compound screening, and biomarker detection, will dedicate a new 28,000-square-foot headquarters and commercial and manufacturing operations center in Lexington, Mass., on Sept. 26.
The new HQ will more than double the company’s former space in Guilford, Conn., and boost its workforce by 50 percent, to nearly 100 employees within a year. The company will hire new biologists, chemists, mechanical engineers, technicians, software programmers, customer service representatives, and administrative support staffers.
In a press release last week, RainDance credited the $1 billion, 10-year Life Sciences Initiative of Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick with its decision to relocate to the Bay State. Daniel O’Connell, Massachusetts’ secretary of housing and economic development, will address attendees at the event, along with Christopher McNary, RainDance’s president and CEO; and Sir Richard Roberts, winner of the 1993 Nobel Prize in Physiology/ Medicine and a member of the company’s scientific advisory board.
RainDance said it will use the occasion to announce a “collaboration with a major pharmaceutical company” to develop a new droplet-based methodology for the drug discovery process.

Pharmatek Opens New Highly Potent and Cytotoxic Compound Facility in San Diego
Pharmatek Laboratories, a pharmaceutical chemistry development organization supporting the pharmaceutical industry, has opened an 18,000-square-foot facility in San Diego.
The facility includes new analytical and formulation development laboratories, as well as cGMP manufacturing suites dedicated to the development of highly potent and cytotoxic drug products for early phase clinical trials.
The facility holds a State of California Food and Drug Branch Drug Manufacturers License, which authorizes Pharmatek to manufacture and ship clinical material from its new facility; and is “currently working on a number of highly-potent development projects,” the company said in a press release.

Thailand’s Biotec Eyes Training Center for Students from Overseas
Thailand’s National Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, or Biotec, said it will develop a training center for biotechnology, human resources, and agricultural technology development, focusing on attracting students from neighboring countries, the Nation of Bangkok reported.
Biotec senior adviser Morakot Tanticharoen told the newspaper that the agency has set a goal of operating a center of excellence in biotechnology, as well as opening its training and research and development hub for neighboring countries, within the next five years. To that end, Tanticharoen said, Biotec will join with the government, education and private sectors, locally and internationally, to conduct biotech-related R&D, develop human resources and enable technology transfer between sectors and countries.
Tanticharoen said the agency’s goals for this year include creating an agrarian cluster, developing a business network, and conduc ting R&D for businesses.
Tanticharoen said Biotec is collaborating with international and local partners on R&D projects that include development of technology to improve seed production, environment-friendly plastic, and improvement of plant growth and post harvest management of fruits and vegetables, for a longer shelf life. The center will also produce biocontrol agents, intended to significantly reduce the usage of chemicals in pest management.

Noni Biotech International Opens New HQ/Laboratory in Haiku, Hawaii
Noni Biotech International, which does business under the name Noni Maui, has opened a 3,600-square-foot headquarters and biotech laboratory in Haiku, Hawaii, on the island of Maui.
The new lab is designed to help the company analyze and manufacture organic anti-cancer compounds recently discovered in Hawaiian Noni Juice at Louisiana State University’s Medical Research Center. Noni Maui is recognized by the state as an official Qualified High Tech Business.

Philadelphia Biotechnology Firm Transposagen Plans Move to Lexington, Ky.
Transposagen Biopharmaceuticals, a privately held biotechnology company, will move its operations and research facilities from Philadelphia to Lexington, Ky., according to Kentucky Business Online.

Transposagen CEO Eric Ostertag cited cooperation with the company by state and local government, the public-private economic development group Commerce Lexington, and the University of Kentucky as key to the company’s decision to relocate.

The company focuses on providing unique animal models of human diseases for drug discovery and development.

Florida’s Indian River State College Opens $5.8M Biotechnology Facility in Fort Pierce
Indian River State College has opened the $5.8 million Brenda and Vernon Smith Center for Medical Education, housing biotechnology and bioinformatics laboratories for students in the college's new Associate in Arts degree program in biotechnology, according to Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers. The program is designed to produce skilled technicians for biotechnology companies moving to the area.
The center also houses the region's first medical school, the Florida State University College of Medicine-Fort Pierce Regional Campus.
The $5.8 million facility was dedicated in August and contains the Realtors Association of St. Lucie Biotechnology Suite and the Basil L. King Foundation Informatics and Data Mining Suite.
The biotechnology program is supported in part by a grant from the National Science Foundation to implement the Florida Biotechnology Regional Access Initiative, or Biotrain, which establishes a network of partnerships among the college, high schools, universities, government agencies, and biotechnology firms.

The Scan

Study Points to Tuberculosis Protection by Gaucher Disease Mutation

A mutation linked to Gaucher disease in the Ashkenazi Jewish population appears to boost Mycobacterium tuberculosis resistance in a zebrafish model of the lysosomal storage condition, a new PNAS study finds.

SpliceVault Portal Provides Look at RNA Splicing Changes Linked to Genetic Variants

The portal, described in Nature Genetics, houses variant-related messenger RNA splicing insights drawn from RNA sequencing data in nearly 335,700 samples — a set known as the 300K-RNA resource.

Automated Sequencing Pipeline Appears to Allow Rapid SARS-CoV-2 Lineage Detection in Nevada Study

Researchers in the Journal of Molecular Diagnostics describe and assess a Clear Labs Dx automated workflow, sequencing, and bioinformatic analysis method for quickly identifying SARS-CoV-2 lineages.

UK Team Presents Genetic, Epigenetic Sequencing Method

Using enzymatic DNA preparation steps, researchers in Nature Biotechnology develop a strategy for sequencing DNA, along with 5-methylcytosine and 5-hydroxymethylcytosine, on existing sequencers.