Horizon Therapeutics Quadruples Space in Maryland to Foster Scientific Innovation

Courtesy of Alexandria Real Estate Equities

Courtesy of Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Inc.

With a new R&D facility under construction, Horizon Therapeutics’ Bill Rees is excited about the potential of the scientific discovery and cross-functional collaboration he said will lead to new innovations for patients.

Construction on the new state-of-the-art laboratory facility in Rockville, Maryland, has already begun, and the site is expected to be completed by 2024. The new building will provide the company with 192,000-square feet of space for its team, many of whom joined the company, such as Rees, following its 2021 acquisition of rare disease company Viela Bio, which was headquartered in Gaithersburg, Maryland. 

Many scientists, including Rees, currently the vice president of translational sciences and also serving as site head for Horizon in Maryland, have provided input into the design of the new space the company is leasing from Alexandria Real Estate Equities. Because scientific innovation will be at the heart of the new space, Horizon wanted to ensure the site will be designed to foster that kind of onsite collaboration. 

“We’ve been excited and honored to talk with our employees regarding their interests and thoughts,” Rees told BioSpace. “A large number of our staff are actively involved in the design of the building. The environment must nurture the innovation that we hope it will bring us. By engaging the scientists at all levels of design, it will help us create an environment that fosters that collaboration.”

When the new building is complete in 2024, Horizon will house more than 200 scientists and will have more than quadrupled its footprint in Maryland. Rees excitedly proclaimed the facility “a great and grand endeavor.” While the space will undoubtedly support Horizon’s continued growth, it’s the hope for new, innovative therapies that may be developed there that has enthused Rees so much. 

“It’s here that we can truly collaborate and innovate the next generation of therapies for the treatment of rare autoimmune and inflammatory diseases,” he said, adding that the design of the building is expected to “create connectivity” across the entire site. 

As a scientist, Rees focused on the core understanding of how molecules interact with the human body, something he calls “big science.” His reaserch has led to clinical programs for multiple indications, including alopecia areta, systemic lupus erythematosus and Sjogren’s syndrome, a disorder characterized by dry eyes and dry mouth. As site director, Rees has set a tone that allows Horizon to place a focus on people and their innovative capabilities that can build a framework for understanding disease and pathways to discover better cures.

Before settling on Maryland, Rees said the company was agnostic about the location of its new facility. However, it became clear that the Old Line State was the place to be. 

For the past several years, Maryland, part of the BioCapital Hotbed has been booming, driven by innovations in cell therapy and cell therapy manufacturing and bolstered by billions of federal dollars invested in infectious disease research, particularly the COVID-19 pandemic. Two years ago, RoosterBio added an additional 5,000 square feet to its 15,500 square-foot site, and Kite Pharma also expanded its toehold in Maryland with the construction of a manufacturing facility to support the company’s CAR-T manufacturing needs. Last year, Australia-based Ellume planted its flag in Maryland, announcing the construction of a 180,000-square-foot manufacturing facility to support its at-home COVID-19 tests. It’s this hotbed of innovation that Horizon is joining with its new facility.

“We were really excited about the space in Rockville. Maryland is the fastest-growing biopharma hub in America. It’s an amazing environment. There is a diversity of thought, experience and origin here that is key to innovation and success,” Rees said.

When the new space opens in two years, Horizon is expecting to double its headcount in Maryland. Since 2018, the company has quadrupled its R&D team and now employs more than 200 scientists, technicians and researchers. Because of its location in Maryland, the applicants from other companies located in the region, or from one of the government agencies in the area, such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, as well as those coming out of the university programs will be highly qualified.

Rees also noted that Horizon is seeking talented scientists interested in joining “this people-focused company” at various levels. Horizon is looking for a “diverse talent pool that can represent their unique insights into a culture that values diversity and inclusion,” and also offers the opportunity to share their thoughts on solving the answers to treating rare diseases. 

It’s that quest for diversity among its research team that is crucial for the future, and reliance on diverse backgrounds has led the team to take new approaches to autoimmune diseases.

“Listening to diverse inputs and requiring those diverse inputs is critical. That leads to innovation. The inclination to investigate is in the cultural DNA of Horizon,” Rees exclaimed. 

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