Human Genome buys lab campus

Rockville site to join two other facilities company is building

Part of major expansion

March 10, 2001|By Dan Thanh Dang and Julie Bell | Dan Thanh Dang and Julie Bell,SUN STAFF

Human Genome Sciences Inc. said yesterday that it has agreed to buy the Rockville campus of Life Technologies Inc. for $55 million, giving the company the added capacity to create its next generation of experimental drugs.

The 18-acre campus, with three buildings and 240,000 square feet of labs and offices, will be in addition to two other facilities Human Genome plans to begin building this year.

The company intends to break ground this summer on a new headquarters and research campus on a 55-acre lot it has under contract adjacent to the Life Technologies site.

And in September, Human Genome expects to break ground on a 250,000-square- foot manufacturing plant in Rockville that is capable of producing drugs for the market.

This would be an advance over its current drug-making capacity which is limited to drugs for human trials.

The plant and separate research campus are expected to cost about $150 million each, Chief Financial Officer Steven C. Mayer said.

The company expects to use outside financing for those two projects and the purchase of the Life Technologies' campus.

Life Technologies, which was purchased by Invitrogen Corp. in September, should be out of the Rockville buildings by year's end.

Fits with expansion

"These facilities will permit Human Genome Sciences to execute our plans to expand our antibody-drug discovery and development activities, to relocate ... a company we recently purchased to Rockville and to expand new activities of this group as well," said William A. Haseltine, Human Genome's chairman and chief executive.

He referred to recently acquired Principia Pharmaceutical Corp., which is being moved to Rockville along with 20 to 30 employees.

Human Genome has said it expects to boost employment from about 700 to nearly 1,000 this year and increase spending on research and development by as much as 70 percent.

The biopharmaceutical company is looking to increase the number of its drugs in human testing and has acquired the rights and scientific expertise to develop monoclonal antibody drugs - therapies programmed to target a specific invader inside the body.

Creation of products

"The new [Life Technologies] facility will permit us to expand the research and development team devoted to creation of these products," said Craig A. Rosen, the company's executive vice president of research and development.

The facility also will allow the company to move rapidly toward developing Principia's technology, which fuses the long-lasting protein albumin to biopharmaceuticals.

The technology makes drugs last longer in the bloodstream, potentially reducing dose levels and the number of injections required by a patient.

Human Genome drugs already undergoing human testing include Repifermin, a protein that stimulates wound-healing; Mirostipen, a protein that could help protect the blood-forming tissues in bone marrow from chemotherapy; and BLyS, a protein that stimulates the immune system.

Near two campuses

The fully equipped Life Technologies' research and manufacturing facility is near the Montgomery County campuses of the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University.

In addition, it is less than a mile from Human Genome's existing research campus on Key West Avenue and about a half mile from its existing manufacturing campus.

Human Genome's shares lost 44 cents to close at $49.56 on the Nasdaq stock market.

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