The biggest, best-situated biotechnology research facility ever to rise in Seattle is now being converted into an Internet cubicle farm. But elsewhere in the city, robust smaller enterprises with great promise and high-paying jobs continue to sprout and grow.
The biggest biotech-research facility ever to rise in Seattle is now being converted into an Internet cubicle farm. But elsewhere in the city, robust smaller enterprises with great promise continue to sprout and grow.
Juno Therapeutics, the hottest local biotech in years, broke ground Tuesday with developer Alexandria Real Estate on the company’s new headquarters in South Lake Union. The company, which now employs more than 200, is taking four floors of the 12- story building at 400 Dexter Ave. N., and it has options for three more, said CEO Hans Bishop.
Separately, a University of Washington researcher took the wraps off a $95 million, five-year investment by global giant GlaxoSmithKline in a new nonprofit institute working on how genes are controlled and how they affect cell functions.
The Altius Institute for Biomedical Sciences “is definitely a new kind of research organization and new type of collaboration with a pharma company,” said founder and president John Stamatoyannopoulos, a professor of genome sciences at the UW Schoole of Medicine.
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Altius will be fully independent from Glaxo, but the company has the first right to negotiate for licensing technology from the institute and can invest in any spinoff companies that result, said Stamatoyannopoulos.
He said Altius should be functioning before the end of the year in labs just north of the Pike Place Market, and initially will have “a core research operation of 40 to 80 people.”
Add in the nearly $200 million raised by Adaptive Biotechnologies of Seattle last month and the planned doubling of research work by Danish pharma powerhouse Novo Nordisk, and the disappearance of Amgen and its prominent lab space on Seattle’s waterfront may sting less.
The city is at the center of one of the industry’s most promising fields, cancer immunotherapy, said Robert Nelsen of Arch Venture Partners, who helped launch Juno with research from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Seattle Children’s.
“I think the core science of the Hutch and Children’s is driving the new immunooncology revolution,” he said. “We’re leading the world. Boston is jealous.”
The biotech industry is enjoying one of its periodic bursts a funding enthusiasm. Juno alone has raised more than $500 million since inception in 2013 and currently has a market capitalization north of $5 billion.
But if the industry seems to be rolling in cash, Nelsen put it in perspective when he joked to the groundbreaking crowd, “The cure for cancer may some day be worth as much as a dating app or a taxi service.”
Seattle is getting a pretty good slice of that money, consulting firm EY’s biotech industry report for 2015 suggests. The Pacific Northwest — meaning largely Seattle and the Eastside — ranked fourth nationally for venture capital and third for IPOs last year.
Chris Rivera, president of the Washington Biotechnology and Biomedial Association, said the total value of biotech financing, and merger and acquisition transactions statewide tracked by the trade group more than doubled last year to about $1.5 billion, and has already surpassed that in 2015.
When he talks to biotech companies interested in locating here, said Rivera at the Juno event, the biggest question he gets is, “ ‘Where’s the lab space in Seattle?’ And unfortunately there’s not enough of that.”
Neither Rivera, nor Seattle Mayor Ed Murray or any of the other speakers at the Juno ceremony mentioned the 750,000-square-foot biotech research and development campus that online-travel company Expedia recently snapped up for its new headquarters after Amgen closed its Seattle operation.
But both Alexandria and the nation’s other biotech-property specialist, BioMed Realty, are placing additional bets on the Seattle area even if they weren’t willing to take on the massive 40-acre Amgen complex.
Alexandria has nearly 1 million square feet of biotech space in the region, and more in the pipeline, said CEO Joel Marcus. According to city permit records, one project would be adjacent to the Lake Union Steam Plant, whose replica smokestacks carry the ZymoGenetics name.
BioMed has leased 35 percent of its 500 Fairview Research Center II, now under construction in South Lake Union, said marketing Vice President Jim Cullinan. He expects the 140,000-square-foot building to be fully leased by completion.
The company also had a contract to buy a block at 700 Dexter for $18 million. But according to a lawsuit filed in King County Superior Court last month, the seller refuses to complete the deal, citing an environmental dispute with a neighboring property owner. BioMed declined to comment on the litigation.