Google's Verily Employees Make Themselves at Home at Onyx's Former HQ

Google's Verily Employees Make Themselves at Home at Onyx's Former HQ March 24, 2017
By Alex Keown, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

SAN FRANCISCO – A year after Verily Life Sciences, Google ’s life sciences division, secured the 400,000 square foot space formerly occupied by Onyx Pharmaceuticals , the company has settled into the space and is looking for potential growth.

The company began moving employees into the building in October. The site remains unchanged since the days Onyx occupied the space, but Verily is now at home there, the San Francisco Business Times reported. Currently, Verily has about 400 employees on site and is looking to employ up to 1,000 people, the Times said.

The deal to secure the former Onyx site was part of a three-way transaction with Alexandria Real Estate Equities Inc., the Times said. According to the report, Google was able to nab the building even though the former Onyx site was never officially on the market. Officials with CBRE, a commercial real estate group, brought the building to the attention of Google. Executives with that company then reached out to Amgen, the company that owned the building after it acquired Onyx Pharmaceuticals. The entities worked out a deal and Verily soon secured the space–at well-below current marsan fraket rates, the Times said. Lease rates in the San Francisco area usually run to about $60 per square foot, but the Times noted that Verily is paying approximately $40 per square foot.

One benefit for Verily, in addition to the exceptional cost, was the fact the Onyx spaces were relatively new, the oldest part about 10 years old. Verily converted the interior into a “combination of labs, workspaces for a hardware team of mechanical and electrical engineers, a software team and a clinical team, including space for an onsite clinic,” the Times reported.

The new space at Verily and the room to grow is a good thing after the company received an infusion of $800 million from Singapore-based investment firm Temasek. With the majority of its business operations across Asia, Temasek will be able to pave the way for Verily’s products, after they are ready for commercialization.

Verily is focused on developing various technologies to disrupt the healthcare industry and advance personalized medicine, including a wearable contact lens that will read glucose levels in diabetic patients. One aspect of the lens, which is being developed in conjunction with Novartis , would be an LED light system that would light up to warn the wearer when glucose levels were too high or low. There is no indication when this is expected to begin clinical trials.

Another eye-wear lens the company is developing with Novartis (NVS)’ subsidiary Alcon (ACL) is an auto-focus lens that automatically adjusts for people who are far-sighted. The companies had expected the lens to enter clinical trials by the end of 2016, but in November Novartis Chief Executive Officer Joe Jiminez said the companies would not meet that mark. He did say at the time though that the project was “progressing steadily.” Novartis has said the missed goals are because the lenses are a “very technical complex process,” and that Verily and Alcon are “learning as we go along,” BioSpace previously reported.

Last year, Verily came under criticism following reports questioning the science behind its moon-shot projects. Over the summer STAT News, which is owned by the Boston Globe, took hard look at some of Verily’s lofty goals and found the most prominently talked-about ones are “plagued by serious, if not fatal, scientific shortcomings.”

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