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Drug Giant Merck & Co. (MRK) to Set Up Shop in South San Francisco

7/20/2016 7:27:11 AM

Drug Giant Merck to Set Up Shop in South San Francisco July 20, 2016
By Alex Keown, Breaking News Staff

SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO – Drugmaking giant Merck (MRK) is setting up a new West Coast headquarters in the Bay Area, the Daily Journal reported Tuesday afternoon.

The company has secured temporary headquarters while it searches for a larger and more permanent facility for its operations, according to the report. Merck’s presence in South San Francisco will put the company in close proximity to other notable pharma giants, including Roche (RHHBY)’s Genentech (RHHBY), Pfizer (PFE) and Johnson & Johnson (JNJ). Citing South San Francisco City Manager Mike Futrell, the Journal reported Merck has yet to apply for a business license to operate in the area and the company is not yet scheduled to appear before local government leaders to secure the proper authorization.

"The City of South San Francisco is the largest biotech center in the world," Alex Greenwood, Director of Economic & Community Development told BioSpace. "SSF has more life science employees, more patents, more Venture Capital funding, more NIH funding, and more drugs actually developed – than any other city in the world."

Also unknown at this time is the scope of the Bay Area facility for Merck—what functions will operate out of the area, how many will be employed in the area and what sort of research may or may not be conducted in the area.
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Much like Boston on the East Coast, San Francisco and the surrounding Bay Area has become a thriving hub for the pharma and biotech industries. A number of developments have sprung up in the area to provide homes for these innovative companies, including BioMed Realty’s Gateway of the Pacific project—a proposed 1.3 million square foot campus that will include ample office and laboratory space. The first phase of the project is scheduled to develop about 500,000 square feet. Another life sciences development in the area is The Cove, one of the biggest real estate developments of life science industries in the Bay Area. The Cove broke ground last year. The development is South San Francisco’s first ground-up multi-tenant life science development in close to a decade. When complete, the Cove is planned to be an 884,000 square foot, fully integrated, waterfront campus located on Oyster Point Boulevard in South San Francisco. The campus design consists of seven buildings ranging in size from 102,000 square feet to 158,000 square feet in both single- and multi-tenant building configurations. The first phase of the project, consisting of two buildings totaling 253,000 square feet, is expected to be completed in the third quarter of 2016. Construction has already started on the second phase.

Some companies have also freed up some costly real estate in the area, including Amgen, which has been shedding some of its property. But Amgen’s loss has been the gain of other companies, such as NGM Biopharmaceuticals, which plans to move into an Amgen building that has been vacant for about eight years.

The South San Francisco site is not the only facility Merck is opening. Across the country, in the other thriving biotech hub of Boston, the company has plans to open a microbiome research and development site. The proposed site is one of three that Merck operates in the Cambridge area. Additionally the company has a 300,000 square-foot facility in Boston’s Longwood Medical and Academic Area and of course maintains a presence in the dense biotech hub of Kendall Square in Cambridge.

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