Boston-Area Biotech Firms Seek Cheaper Space in Suburbs

Drug maker Alkermes Inc. last week became the latest in what has become a growing line of biotech firms leaving Cambridge, Mass., in search of less expensive office and laboratory space in the suburbs. The company plans to relocate to a 100,000-square-foot facility in Waltham early next year, a move that Alkermes says will eventually save some $750,000 a year.“By taking advantage of the current real estate market conditions, we are able to improve our business operations by moving to a central location in a brand new facility,” noted Alkermes CFO Jim Frates. “This relocation to Waltham offers economic advantages by providing a lower cost of doing business and increasing our flexibility to invest in our proprietary product pipeline.” Alkermes joins several other biotech companies who have relocated from the relatively costly Cambridge market. Last year, AMAG Pharmaceuticals Inc. moved its headquarters to nearby Lexington, where it will soon be joined by Shire Human Genetic Therapies, which is planning to move its headquarter there as well. Akermes’ new home of Waltham has seen both Atlus Pharmaceuticals and ImmunoGen relocate there from Cambridge. And developers are at work to try to keep up with the increased demand for suburban space. Last summer, Patriot Partners L.L.C. unveiled plans to build the largest life sciences complex in New England in suburban Burlington. The project is planned to include some 2 million square feet of laboratory and office space. For Alkermes, however, the move was a bit more complicated than simply picking up sticks in Cambridge. The firm is still under lease at its current facility in Cambridge, which it will sublease to Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc. until 2012. The company’s new digs are located in the Reservoir Woods campus, and is owned by a joint venture of Marcus Partners, The Davis Cos. and Prudential Real Estate Investors. Alkermes will be the first tenant to move into the property, which is certified LEED Gold by the U.S. Green Building Council. Colliers Meredith & Grew represented Alkermes in the lease negotiations, while CB Richard Ellis Inc. represented the building owner.