Dutch firm coming to Maryland

Qiagen unit buys Germantown land for a headquarters

`There's a cost advantage'

Manufacturing, research planned, employing about 300

Biotechnology

March 02, 2000|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,SUN STAFF

A subsidiary of a Netherlands-based biotechnology company has purchased 18 acres in Montgomery County for a manufacturing and research headquarters which is expected to employ several hundred people.

Qiagen NV, a supplier to the gene research industry, said yesterday that it will start building the North American headquarters for its newly formed subsidiary, Qiagen Sciences Inc., this month in Germantown.

Qiagen expects to employ more than 200 manufacturing workers and 100 scientists in research and development by early 2002. Manufacturing would start by 2001 in a 190,000-square-foot, campus-style facility. The company hopes to build another 100,000 square feet and employ 500 workers within the next few years, said Michael W. Burgett, vice president of operations.

The manufacturing and research facility will be the first in the United States for Qiagen, the world's largest supplier of DNA purification products to pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies in terms of sales and market share. The company, with $144 million in annual sales and compounded annual growth exceeding 30 percent for the past five years, supplies customers in more than 42 countries. American companies and research labs account for more than half the business.

Qiagen has a U.S. sales office in California, but manufactures only at a plant in Germany.

The company said it needed a U.S. manufacturing presence because of the extent of U.S. sales and because of the extent of gene research under way in the United States. "There's a cost advantage in manufacturing in the U.S. if you sell in the U.S.," Burgett said. "It's going to save us money in the long run to manufacture products here."

The supplier launched a search more than a year ago along the East Coast and narrowed potential locations to the Richmond, Va., area and Montgomery County.

Qiagen chose Germantown because of the area's reputation as an industrial biotechnology hub, its proximity to Baltimore-Washington International Airport and Washington Dulles International Airport and access along the Interstate 270 corridor.

"It's close to other biotech companies and close to academic locations, and much of our growth in the past has been through collaborations with other companies" and with universities, Burgett said. "This will allow us to broaden our interaction."

State officials had been courting the company for more than a year, after hearing that Qiagen was seeking a North American headquarters but had nearly settled on Boston, Richard C. "Mike" Lewin, secretary of the Department of Business and Economic Development, said yesterday.

"When they saw how dense the concentration of biotechnology was here and realized how important NIH was, they took us seriously," Lewin said.

The department is working with the company on a financial assistance package.

Qiagen's decision is another sign that the Montgomery County corridor is fast becoming the biotechnology capital. "We're growing faster than anywhere else," Lewin said. "This is a major win for us. When companies of international prestige like Qiagen move here, they not only bring 400 to 500 jobs, but they also bring a reputation" which helps attract more business.

Qiagen also has subsidiaries in Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, France, Australia and Canada and employs about 1,000 people worldwide. It started in 1984 in Duesseldorf, Germany.

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