Two Boston-Based Biopharmas Are Investing in Office Space

Greater Boston Area

As the Delta variant continues to spread and vaccine hesitancy shows no signs of abating, companies across North America are pondering what to do with office space sitting empty. Two biopharma companies in Genetown are bucking this trend.

After raising serious funds in initial public offerings, speedy startup Centessa Pharmaceuticals and genomics testing firm Sophia Genetics have both announced plans to expand their real estate footprints in Boston.

Centessa, which launched in February with $250 million as a novel “asset-centric pharmaceutical company” and closed a $380 million IPO shortly thereafter, is getting ready to move into its new headquarters in Boston. With a lean business model – which consists of 10 mini-biotechs with 16 drugs under development, but only around 60 employees – Centessa will still remain primarily virtual, but call Beantown home. Centessa has a central management team that closely manages its many consultants and contract researchers.

Centessa Chief Executive Officer Dr. Saurabh Saha explained that the unique structure gives his company the flexibility to abandon programs that aren’t faring well.

“We take an agnostic view across our portfolio when it comes to data readouts,” he said. “If the data doesn’t look good, then we objectively have to make a decision as a management team whether we should continue or terminate the program,” he said.

Still, Centessa had to be excited last week when it announced positive topline results from a phase I/II proof-of-concept study for SerpinPC, its experimental drug for Hemophilia A and B. SerpinPC was well-tolerated and demonstrated an 88% reduction in median Annualized Bleeding Rate (ABR) for all bleeds and 94% reduction in median ABR for spontaneous joint bleeds in the highest dose cohort. The data was the first presented by Centessa as a public company.

While Centessa is moving in, Sophia Genetics is moving on up – or across the hall – depending on the route the expansion takes. The American-Swiss biotech company provides genomic and radiomic analysis for hospitals, and apparently, there is a lot of demand for that at the moment, because on Friday, just two months after its own $234 million IPO, Sophia announced that it is planning to triple the size of its Copley Square offices.

Over the course of the next three months, the company, located at 185 Dartmouth St., will expand its property to a total of 14,000 square feet. The investment is being made to house its growing workforce which has nearly doubled in size since the beginning of 2021. Sophia began the year at 46 employees and now counts its U.S.-based workforce at 85 with another 35 positions yet to be filled.

The ten-year-old company, with its capabilities centering around using artificial intelligence to analyze genomic information, operates under a hybrid work model that is very quickly becoming the norm.  In this case, employees are classified as either "permanents" or "nomads." Permanents, which includes all managers, are required to be onsite 3 days a week, while nomads can come and go as they like.

Sophia Co-founder and CEO Jurgi Camblong said that having office space is important for collaboration and innovation.

“Within a team, things might work very well if the roadmap is very clear. You still may want to work in person to innovate,” Camblong told the Boston Business Journal.  

Sophia, which also has headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, employs 500 people at five different global sites. 

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