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Biotech developments in Boston


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An interesting article on the growth of biotech in Boston. The area around Boston City Hospital was pretty dumpy not so many years ago.

Pharmas to add over 1,000 local jobs

Mark Hollmer

Journal Staff

Close to 1,100 pharmaceutical company jobs are expected to come to Massachusetts through 2004, thanks to overseas and out-of-state companies expanding here to tap into the Bay State's influential life sciences research-and-development knowledge base.

Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis AG is leading the pack with plans to add about 420 more jobs in 2004. But Merck & Co. Inc. of Whitehouse Station, N.J., Swiss rival Serono SA, Sweden's AstraZeneca and Abbott Laboratories Inc. of Chicago all expect to launch in Massachusetts or expand their existing presence over the coming year. Most are also creating new positions, rather than transferring current employees.

"It means that by coming to Massachusetts there's been some real value in that decision," said Janice Bourque, president and CEO of the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council. "They've made an investment, and it continues to demonstrate value and that gets reflected in (the) expanding employee base."

The trend counters the state's biotech industry loss of approximately 1,000 jobs in 2003, with many of the cuts coming from Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Millennium Pharmaceuticals Inc. in Cambridge as they shifted away from research and development to later-stage drug research.

Basel, Switzerland-based Novartis AG made a large splash in 2002 when it announced that it would move its research headquarters to Cambridge, creating more than 1,000 jobs and investing $4 billion over 10 years in the process.

Despite some industry talk that Novartis is moving more slowly than expected to add jobs, the company's growth plans here remain on track, said Jeff Lockwood, director of external and government relations for the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research Inc., a 250,000-square-foot facility at Cambridge's Technology Square.

Through 2003, the company added 420 people (including 140 transfers), and the company plans to add around the same number beginning in April when its 500,000-square-foot expansion at the Necco building on Massachusetts Avenue finishes in April. Lockwood said they firm is recruiting skill sets that "run the gamut" from physicians to scientists to technicians -- "anyone you need to operate a state-of-the-art research laboratory."

Lockwood said the company's move to Cambridge has been fruitful so far.

"One of the main reasons we came to Cambridge is because of the talent pool here, and our experience in being able to recruit top talent has certainly borne that out," he said.

Merck & Co. Inc. doesn't have a significant presence here yet, but its 300,000-square-foot lab facility under construction since 2001 at Emmanuel College is slated to open later this year.

That building will gear up gradually to house 300 research scientists and 150 administrative and support people working in 26 laboratories, including some transfers, said Merck spokeswoman Janet Skidmore. Some will be transferred from existing labs. Researchers will focus on biomedical drug-discovery work in cancer, Alzheimer's disease and obesity. Merck will be looking at potential candidates with doctorates, master's and bachelor's degrees, depending on their research needs.

"We feel that Boston is really the heart of one of the finest ... biomedical communities in the world," Skidmore said.

AstraZeneca, whose U.S. headquarters is in Wilmington, Del., is already in the process of adding 100 more people to its 375-person work force in Waltham, thanks to an 80,000-square-foot addition that opened in October, adding to its 170,000-square-foot drug discovery space.

The company, which initially opened research space in Cambridge in 1995 before moving to Waltham in 2000, also runs a separate manufacturing facility in Westborough that employs 740 people, plus 40 sales representatives. That complex will keep staff levels about the same in 2004, said spokeswoman Kellie Rivest.

Abbott Laboratories, which employs nearly 600 people at its Worcester bio-research facility, plans to add at least 100 new jobs there in 2004 and beyond, including a variety of scientists and manufacturing technicians reflecting a range of skill sets, a spokesperson said. The company also employs close to 500 people at its blood-glucose-monitoring business in Bedford.

Serono Inc., Serono SA's U.S. division, hired 100 people in 2003, boosting its U.S. employee presence to 625 people, 425 of whom are based at its 200,000-square-foot Rockland headquarters that houses a research facility, clinical development space and marketing and sales offices. The company has continued to grow here since opening its doors in Massachusetts more than 30 years ago.

About 40 of those positions were new and the rest filled vacant positions. In 2004, Serono plans to add 40 new positions, a portion of which will be based in Rockland, said Carolyn Castel, the company's executive director of corporate communications.

On the flip side, some companies expanded their pharmaceutical presence significantly in Massachusetts in 2003 but plan to keep staffing level in 2004.

Wyeth Pharmaceuticals of Collegeville, Pa., has maintained a research facility in Cambridge since the 1980s that employs 800 people, and it added 75 jobs in 2003. Its Andover biopharmaceutical manufacturing and development facility employs another 1,800, including a 200-person expansion completed through 2003.

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'Pretty dumpy...' quite an understated appraisal of the BCH area. Remember Charles Stuart said he was randomly shot there and no one questioned it for a second.

That area certainly has some space to grow. It's a frontier in the city that gets rather overshadowed by the South Boston Waterfront.

Now all we need is the Urban Ring to connect it to Longwood and Kendall and Boston will be unstoppable! :lol:

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