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Vertex, Fan Pier, Biogen Idec, Medical University of South Carolina, South Carolina Research Authority, Affymetrix, Charles River Laboratories International, National Cancer Institute, Ventana Medical Systems, Bridge Laboratories, Horizon Therapeutics, Il

Vertex Mum on Report It Agrees to Occupy 500K Sq. Ft., and Maybe More, at Boston’s Fan Pier
Vertex last week sought to douse reports in several local newspapers that it had agreed to occupy at least 500,000 square feet, and possibly another half-million square feet in two buildings to rise as part of the $1 billion Fan Pier mixed-use development planned for 21 acres of the South Boston waterfront.
The biotech giant refused to confirm that it signed a non-binding letter of intent to lease the space with the Fallon Co. while continuing to negotiate a formal lease. The Boston Business Journal broke the story on its web site July 30, citing “multiple biotech industry sources.”
Fallon Co. president Joseph Fallon did not return a BRN message seeking confirmation. Last December, he refused to confirm the first reports of Vertex’s interest in Fan Pier [BRN, Dec. 31, 2007].
A Vertex spokesman, Zachry Barber, said the company won’t comment on the report — but did issue a 26-word statement: “We are in a process to determine how best to accommodate the real estate needs of our company’s growth.  We are not commenting on that process.”
Fallon has yet to land a tenant for Fan Pier, which broke ground in summer 2007. Vertex now occupies 500,000 square feet in a half-dozen buildings in neighboring Cambridge, Mass.

Report: Biogen Idec Seeks Up to 300K Sq. Ft. of Office Space in Boston Suburbs

Biogen Idec is shopping for up to 300,000 square feet of additional office space in the Boston suburbs, including Waltham, Mass., and Weston, Mass., with the goal of moving many of its operations out of its headquarters city of Cambridge, Mass., the Boston Business Journal reported, citing “several real estate sources.

The unnamed sources said Biogen is weighing several development sites, including Hobbs Brook Management’s 335,000-square-foot office project under construction at 175 Wyman St. in Waltham; as well as Boston Properties Inc.’s Weston Corporate Centre. Suburban sites typically lease for less per square foot than equivalent space in Cambridge or Boston.
The biotechnology company now bases more than 1,500 employees at its Cambridge HQ-research center. But last year, the company moved another 150 marketing, sales and administrative jobs from Cambridge to Wellesley. And in January, Biogen Idec CEO Jim Mullen told the Boston Globe the cheaper suburban rent made it sensible for his company to base at least some jobs there — but added it was important to maintain Biogen Idec's research operations near Cambridge's Kendall Square.

MUSC, SCRA Betting Charleston Incubator Can Keep University Biotech Startups Local

A biotechnology incubator planned for downtown Charleston, SC, will provide much-needed space for a “full pipeline” of startup companies emanating from research laboratories, hospitals, and partners of the Medical University of South Carolina, officials involved with the project said last week.

With the goal of developing the state’s “knowledge economy,” the Charleston Innovation Center is one of a trio of incubators and research centers being developed near South Carolina research universities by the South Carolina Research Authority, a state-founded non-profit applied research and commercialization services company, officials said.
The other two research incubators – one at Clemson University focusing on advanced materials and one at the University of South Carolina focusing on alternative energy and nanotechnology – are also in the works, with the Clemson incubator farthest along.
SCRA is obligated to fund construction of the three centers – it will pump some $5 million into the Charleston incubator – under a South Carolina law called the Innovation Centers Act passed in 2005.
That legislation also created a program called SC Launch, a joint venture of SCRA research foundations of Clemson, MUSC, and USC that supplies entrepreneurs, researchers, and early-stage companies with resources such as upfront counseling, facilities, seed funding, and mentoring.
It is unclear exactly when the incubator will open, but SCRA officials said that the organization is eyeing the fall of 2009. According to SCRA, the Charleston city council has given initial approval for the incubator to be built in a 28,000-square-foot former mattress factory two miles from the MUSC campus, but will review the proposal once more before a final approval.
MUSC also hopes the innovation pipeline will remain full for several years, as the Charleston Innovation Center is “Phase I” of a larger plan to open a drug-discovery center and bioengineering building on campus, and an entire research park adjacent to the campus.
“The next part of the picture is that we’ve got 44 acres right next to campus that will be an urban mixed-use research park, with industry buildings and more incubator space – very high-density – as well as residential condos,” said William Hood, executive director of the MUSC Technology Transfer Office. “All of that is with that commitment of trying to engage industry into the academic setting – both established companies, and providing this climate for these startups to flourish.”
The school just broke ground on the drug-discovery center earlier this year, and hopes to begin construction on the bioengineering center, which will be in collaboration with Clemson University, in 2009. The expanded research park is in early planning stages.
[By Ben Butkus, Biotech Transfer Week, a BRN Sister Publication]

Affymetrix Plans 2009 Shutdown of West Sacramento, Calif., Plant; 110 Laid Off

Affymetrix has announced plans to shut down its West Sacramento, Calif., manufacturing plant by the middle of next year as part of a consolidation of manufacturing operations to Cleveland and Singapore. The company will lay off 110 employees as a result.

News of the shutdown comes more than four months after Affymetrix in March laid off 23 West Sacramento staffers and began moving some operations from there to Singapore.
Affymetrix may lease out or sell its 170,000-square-foot building at Riverside Parkway and Embarcadero Drive, Wayne Woodard, the company’s senior vice president of global operations, told the Sacramento Business Journal.
The plant produces GeneChips, tiny and disposable test panels imprinted with gene fragments used in the study of genetic variation; as well as chemical reagents and instruments for scanning the chips.
Affymetrix expanded to West Sacramento in 1998 with the construction of a 50,000-square-foot manufacturing building. In 2006, the company built the largest of its West Sacramento buildings, at 110,000 square feet. Also that year, Affymetrix opened its 150,000-square-foot manufacturing plant in Singapore, a deal wrought in part through employee training grants and tax breaks.
Last year, the company moved to West Sacramento an equipment manufacturing operation from Bedford, Mass. But employment at the California plant has shrunk, from 201 last fall to 170 in March, and 130 today.
Woodard told the newspaper Affymetrix plans to retain about 20 of its current West Sacramento manufacturing employees, mostly engineers who will work from their homes.  It also plans to keep in West Sacramento a 10,000-square-foot clinical services laboratory that employs 20 people and sits across the street from the plant to be shuttered.

Charles River Labs Opens New Frederick, Md., Lab, With NCI and Baltimore/Washington Customers in Mind
Charles River Laboratories International has opened a 52,000-square-foot research laboratory in Frederick, Md., with the goals of better serving a key customer, the National Cancer Institute, and other customers in the Washington, DC, region.
Half of the new lab building will be set aside for supporting NCI research, with Charles River's Consulting and Staffing Services (CSS) group staffing and operating the facility. The other half will be occupied by Charles River's Research Models and Services business, which will use its new space to help grow its customer base in the Baltimore/Washington market.
"Because Charles River built this facility for us, we are able to invest in the research and development of new therapeutics for patients who need them. By partnering with them, we gain an experienced, high-quality service provider who helps us accelerate our drug development efforts." Melinda Hollingshead, Chief of the Biological Testing Branch at The National Cancer Institute-Frederick, said in a Charles River press release.
The new facility employs approximately 120 employees, 80 of whom are focused on providing genetically defined, pathogen-free mice to support NCI/National Institutes of Health-funded research targeting the causes and treatments of infectious and metabolic diseases, cancer and other nationally recognized health issues.
Charles River has also assumed responsibility for managing the NCI/NIH Tumor and Natural Products Repository, which stores tumor samples for use by cancer researchers.
"This shared-space facility symbolizes the evolving dynamics in the drug development process, as we truly become one with our customers," said James C. Foster, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Charles River, in the press release.
Charles River announced plans for the new lab after winning a 10-year, $111.6 million contract from NCI in 2006.

Ventana Medical Systems expands its Tucson, Ariz., Campus to Nearly 60 Acres
Ventana Medical Systems has expanded its Tucson, Ariz., campus to nearly 60 acres after purchasing 17.1 acres from Vistoso Partners LLC, the owners of the Rancho Vistoso retirement community, for $8.9 million, the Arizona Daily Star reported.
Ventana, a maker of medical diagnostic instrument and reagent systems, plans to use the new, 17-acre site for office space and parking.
The purchase comes six months after Switzerland-based Roche Holding AG bought Ventana’s campus, at 1910 E. Innovation Park Drive. Roche finalized the $3.4 billion deal in January, then said it planned to keep Ventana in Tucson.
Alana Bolton, a Ventana spokeswoman, told the Daily Star the recent expansion was "important to move forward and improve patient health care globally. In order to do that, and to fulfill a 10-year plan, we need to plan for future growth.”
Vistoso Partners told the newspaper that the company is in talks about another potential land acquisition, but would not give details.
Ventana employed about 680 people locally at the end of 2007, according to the newspaper’s Star 200 survey of major Southern Arizona employers.

Bridge Laboratories Reaches Agreement to Build 2nd Facility in Beijing

Bridge Laboratories, a preclinical contract research organization headquartered in Gaithersburg, Md., has agreed to build a second preclinical facility that will quadruple Bridge's available laboratory space in Beijing, China. The 150,000-square-foot facility will be adjacent to Bridge's existing laboratory in the Zhongguancun Life Science Park.

Construction of the new laboratory will begin in the fourth quarter of 2008, and is set to be completed late in the fourth quarter of 2009. The new lab will provide “good laboratory practice” or GLP toxicology, immunology, vaccine, and bioanalytical services.
"China is becoming a very attractive solution to many multinational pharmaceutical and biotech companies. We have an established presence and are prepared to meet the growing requirements for preclinical services," Tom Oakley, Bridge Labs president and CEO, said in a press release announcing the project.

Horizon Therapeutics Announces Move from Palo Alto, Calif. to the Chicago Region

Horizon Therapeutics, a privately held biopharmaceutical company, said last week it will relocate its corporate headquarters and its 50 full-time employees and consultants from Palo Alto, Calif. to the Chicago, Ill., area.

Horizon will complete its move this month into the Illinois Science + Technology Park in Skokie, Ill., which formerly housed research and development offices for Pfizer, and predecessors Pharmacia and GD Searle & Co. Walbert once worked for Searle, assisting in the early marketing of the Celebrex arthritis drug, which it developed and which Pfizer now markets.
"Chicago has all the elements to become a major life-science hub, but it's still rivaled by its bi-coastal counterparts. We wanted to relocate here to be an integral part of the market growth as well as leverage the existing market opportunities to grow our business," Timothy Walbert, Horizon’s president and CEO, in a press release announcing the move.

Walbert, who took his position late last month, has focused Horizon’s efforts on drug candidates designed to treat arthritis and mild-to-moderate pain. Its furthest-along product is investigational compound HZT-501, a proprietary formulation of ibuprofen and famotidine designed to reduce the risk of stomach ulcers, and now in Phase 3 clinical trials. Horizon expects to have data from the trials in the fourth quarter.

Walbert is also president and CEO of IDM Pharma, an Irvine, Calif.-based drug developer focused on fighting cancer.

One Year Later, River Falls (Minn.) Industrial Center Fills Nearly All Its Space
The owner of the River Falls (Minn.) Industrial Center told the River Falls Journal last week that only 7,500 square feet remains available at his 140,000-square-foot building at 715 St. Croix St., at an asking price of $10 per square foot annually.
Erin Prairie, Minn., businessman Tom Elbert bought the former factory in July 2007, after the shutdown of previous occupant Kolpak Refrigeration. He reasoned he could easily find tenants for the center’s industrial business space in a community where such space has been hard to come by.
Among companies that are moving in is Fiber Star, a biotech company relocating from Willmar, Minn., but previously based in Ellsworth, Minn.; and Erickson Engineering, which constructed the building in 1956.
Improvements to the building include a new stucco façade, soon to include green trim around the roof; new paint, replacement windows, and the installation of new sidewalks and gutters. An old transformer has been replaced with a smaller one, while a month was spent replacing the building’s fluorescent bulbs, Elbert told the Journal.
Future plans include installing a security system, new asphalt and landscaping and replacement of the entire heating/ventilation/air conditioning system.
Elbert told the newspaper he has advertised his space via the radio, newspaper, word of mouth, the Internet classified site Craig’s List and by coordinating with City Administrator Bernie Van Osdale. The latter three methods yielded the best results, he said.

Wise Construction Relocates, Expands Corporate HQ in Winchester, Mass.
Wise Construction Corp., a construction management firm specializing in the healthcare, biotechnology, education and corporate clients, said last week it has expanded and relocated its corporate headquarters in Winchester, Mass. 
Wise relocated its corporate headquarters to 21 East St., a 40,000-square-foot, one-story office and warehouse building the company purchased last year. Wise will occupy half of the building; the remaining space is leased to a tenant.
The new corporate headquarters features a library, a cafeteria, high-end office spaces, conference rooms, training rooms, plus custom wood finishes and woodwork. The new space was built using recycled materials, with the goal of obtaining the US Green Business Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, certification points.
Wise said in a statement it plans to add green space to its property by removing existing concrete pavements and replacing them with trees.
Wise was previously located at 39 Holton St.,

After VC Award, OpGen Relocates Headquarters from Madison, Wis., to Gaithersburg, Md.
OpGen, a Madison, Wis., biotechnology business specializing in genome mapping, is moving its headquarters to Maryland’s Montgomery County, the Washington Business Journal reported.
OpGen plans to boost its local workforce over the coming year to 70 workers, from the 10 new hires that will be in place when the company settles into a 15,000-square-foot combination HQ-production lab-manufacturing space. The space — on Quince Orchard Road in Gaithersburg, Md. — is owned by Alexandria Real Estate Equities, and was previously occupied by Gene Logic. OpGen has an option to double that space.
The move coincides with a venture capital award the company received last month from investor Evan Jones, former CEO of Digene. He would not tell the newspaper how much money he invested in OpGen — though his jVen Ventures, established last year, invests up to $3 million into companies involved in medical devices or genetic diagnostic products.
The funding will be added to a $23.6 million first round closed last September. Participants in that round included CHL Medical Partners, Highland Capital Partners, Versant Ventures, Mason Wells and even the CIA’s investor arm, In-Q-Tel.
“Madison is not the epicenter of sequencing activity,” Noel Doheny, OpGen’s CEO and a Maryland resident who joined the company last January, told the Business Journal. “You’ve got much broader skill sets to draw upon [here]. There are university, pharmaceutical and biotech skills in this area that are important.”
OpGen will continue to maintain a lab and 30 employees in a Madison incubator, but will steer future growth in Maryland, the newspaper reported.
OpGen was founded in 2001 after licensing its optical mapping technology from New York University and the University of Wisconsin.

Ellsworth Community College Breaks Ground on Renewable Energy Research Center
Ellsworth Community College in Iowa Falls, Iowa, broke ground last week on a $15 million pair of projects that will combine a renewable energy research center with an equine studies facility.
ECC’s76,000-square-foot Equine Center and its Agriculture & Renewable Energy Center are both located on the 40-acre Robert T. & Arlene Hamilton Campus, on Highway 65 south of Iowa Falls. The 17,753 square-foot renewable energy center will contain five classrooms, a computer lab, conference room/classroom, three business incubator labs, a biotechnology lab, and agriculture faculty offices.
The Hamiltons donated $1 million toward the centers, which will be funded mostly through a $35 million general obligation bond issue approved by residents within ECC district boundaries. Of that sum, the equine and renewable energy centers received $10 million. The balance is being made up through a $6 million fundraising campaign. The fundraising project includes a $1 million endowment for scholarships.

To date, that effort has raised $4.8 million “and we have every intention of meeting the goal,” ECC Provost Mollie Teckenburg told Farm News of Fort Dodge, Iowa.

The two centers are set to open in time for the fall 2009 term. Woodruff Construction of Fort Dodge has been awarded a nearly $2.9 million contract to build the renewable energy research center, while Holland Construction of Forest City, Iowa is overseeing construction of the equine center for $6.7 million.

Quest Diagnostics Relocating Laboratory Around the Corner in Ohio’s Deerfield Township

Quest Diagnostics has agreed to lease 1,310 square feet at the new $6 million Jewish Hospital North Medical Center, a medical-professional office building nearing completion at 9313 Mason-Montgomery Road in the Cincinnati suburb of Deerfield Township, Ohio, developer Paul Hemmer Cos. announced last week.

Quest will move from its current location, around the corner on South Mason-Montgomery Road, in the summer, when the 36,000-square-foot building is completed, according to Paul Hemmer. Quest will join at least one other tenant, the physicians’ group Alliance Primary Care, which will occupy 19,000 square feet on the second floor.
Ground for the center was broken last October.
Based in Fort Mitchell, Ohio, Paul Hemmer has completed 15 medical office projects totaling more than 500,000 square feet in the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana “tri-state” region.

Thermo Fisher Scientific Completes $11.4M BioCenter, in First Phase of Expansion

Thermo Fisher Scientific executives last week celebrated the completion of an $11.4 million expansion in Logan, Utah, that has added 75 jobs to the laboratory equipment and supply giant’s local workforce, the Herald Journal of Logan reported.

Executives cut a ceremonial ribbon July 30 to mark the opening of Thermo Fisher’s new 37,000-square-foot BioCenter, located at the company’s US Highway 89/91 site. The BioCenter will be used to manufacture single-use bioprocess containers and related products used by pharmaceutical and biotech companies. In addition to an administration area, the structure includes a sera and liquid-media processing facility, powdered-media facility, warehouse and existing bioprocess containers facility.
The building will not operate at full capacity for at least three or four months, the newspaper reported. Thermo Fisher now employs 400 people in Logan, and 30,000 globally.
A ribbon cutting Wednesday afternoon marked the end of the company's first of three expansion phases totaling 94,000 square feet. The company broke ground for its expansion last October, in an event attended by Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.
Huntsman’s Office of Economic Development approved a post-performance Economic Development Tax Increment Financing incentive for the scientific production and research facility. It will rebate up to $2.735 million, not exceeding 30 percent of the new state tax revenue during the life of the deal.
Local officials have also approved economic incentives for the project. The Logan Redevelopment Agency last year approved a resolution deeding land on the highway to the company in exchange for property tax increments in coming years.
Fisher Scientific expanded into Utah in 2003 when it acquired HyClone, then renamed the facility three years later, after merging HyClone with Thermo Electron Corp.

The Scan

Unique Germline Variants Found Among Black Prostate Cancer Patients

Through an exome sequencing study appearing in JCO Precision Oncology, researchers have found unique pathogenic or likely pathogenic variants within a cohort of Black prostate cancer patients.

Analysis of Endogenous Parvoviral Elements Found Within Animal Genomes

Researchers at PLOS Biology have examined the coevolution of endogenous parvoviral elements and animal genomes to gain insight into using the viruses as gene therapy vectors.

Saliva Testing Can Reveal Mosaic CNVs Important in Intellectual Disability

An Australian team has compared the yield of chromosomal microarray testing of both blood and saliva samples for syndromic intellectual disability in the European Journal of Human Genetics.

Octopus Brain Complexity Linked to MicroRNA Expansions

Investigators saw microRNA gene expansions coinciding with complex brains when they analyzed certain cephalopod transcriptomes, as they report in Science Advances.