BioMed Realty Redesigns Ex-Vertex Space in Cambridge to Fit the Needs of Biotech Startups

BioMed Realty Redesigns Ex-Vertex Space in Cambridge to Fit the Needs of Biotech Startups
May 14, 2015
By Alex Keown and Riley McDermid, Breaking News Staff

CAMBRDIGE, Mass. – The 340,000 square foot facility that formerly hosted Vertex Pharmaceuticals will be developed to host a number of smaller biotech startups, the Boston Business Journal reported Thursday afternoon.

The area, which includes three buildings, will be rebranded as Sidney Research Campus by BioMed Realty Trust, which owns the buildings. Vertex vacated the space in 2013 when it moved a few miles into Boston. In addition to the Boston area, BioMed Realty, which focuses on life science and biotech properties, works in core U.S. life science markets including San Francisco, San Diego, Maryland, New York/New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Seattle.

Bill Kane, BioMed’s vice president, told the Boston Business Journal that smaller biotech companies are finding it difficult to acquire space that meets their needs. Out of the 36 companies seeking lab space in Cambridge, 28 company officials said they were looking for “80,000 square feet of space or less.” BioMed is converting some of the space to “universal flex labs” which will be able to expand to meet the demands of the biotech companies as they grow, Kane told the Journal.

The new site already has its first tenant lined up. RaNA Therapeutics, a 25-employee preclinical biotech headed by Ron Renaud, the former CEO of Idenix Pharmaceuticals, Inc. , will move in in September, the Journal reported. More tenants are expected to be announced later this year. In 2013 RaNa 2013 RaNa inked a deal with Denmark-based Santaris Pharma A/S to use Santaris’ Locked Nucleic Acid (LNA) technology to develop RNA-targeted medicines.

On its website BioMed outlines the characteristics of properties biotech companies are looking for, including location near research facilities and universities and “high quality facilities that meet their specialized laboratory and office requirements.”

Those characteristics fit the Boston area well, as the greater Boston metropolitan area continues to lead the way as the hub of the east coast’s pharmaceutical and biotech industries. More companies, such as IBM Corporation ’s IBM’s new Watson Health Unit, or Beryllium, locate their headquarters and satellite offices to the area.

One of the reasons for the greater Boston area becoming such a major hub in the biotech and pharmaceutical industries is the plethora of research universities in the area. Boston also has one of the highest educated workforces in the nation. Not only are smaller companies calling the Boston area home, but many larger and established pharmaceutical companies, such as Pfizer Inc. , GlaxoSmithKline , Takeda Pharmaceuticals , Sanofi , Biogen Idec, Inc. and Novartis AG have presences in the city. The close proximity of so many pharmaceutical and university laboratories provides researchers and scientists easy access to clinical studies and building partnerships between companies.

Another large former pharmaceutical space that is drawing attention is Merck & Co. ’s former 1 million-square-foot headquarters in Whitehouse Station, N.J. The site is reportedly under contract, but the perspective buyers names have yet to be revealed. There have been rumors that Google is interested in the site, but there is currently no evidence to support those rumors. Merck put the Whitehouse Station building and a portion of its 1,000 acre campus on the market in 2013 as part of an initiative to sharpen the company’s commercial and research and development programs, as well as a reduction in operating costs. Merck had been headquartered in Whitehouse Station since 1992. Prior to that, the company was based in Rahway, N.J.

In April Massachusetts-based Biogen, Inc. said it will stay in Cambridge for the long term, after biotech leasing company BioMed Realty Trust, Inc. announced Thursday that it just signed a 10-year lease with the biotech for approximately 80,000 square feet of Class A laboratory and office space at the company's 301 Binney Street property.

The company said in a statement that it has leased the entire fifth floor of the office and lab building to Biogen, which put it at full capacity for the 417,000-square-foot property. Biogen will now join neighbors Ironwood Pharmaceuticals and Living Proof.

"BioMed Realty is pleased to welcome Biogen to our growing list of tenants in Cambridge, and we look forward to building a long relationship with such a strong player in the Kendall Square research community," said Bill Kane, Senior Vice President for BioMed Realty in Boston/Cambridge.

Biogen focuses on creating therapies for neurological, autoimmune and hematologic disorders. BioMed said the company will use the new space “to expand its drug discovery efforts in this core life science district,” adding it is one of the “largest and fastest growing” global life science companies based in Massachusetts.

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