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Local Tech Wire

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – Given a boost by a $1 million gift from the Biogen Idec Foundation as well as gifts from other supporters, the is expanding its headquarters.

The private non-profit organization will build a circular four-story tall, 20,000 square foot addition at a cost of some $10.4 million. Construction will begin this fall. Completion is expected next fall.
Through its foundation, , which employs 850 people in the Triangle, awarded the Biotech Center a “Transformational Grant in Science and Education” to help underwrite the expansion’s cost.

Esther Alegria, Biogen’s vice president of manufacturing, who was involved in the grant awarding process, said making a “transformational” grant to the Biotech Center made sense because of its influence on the state.

“They have been transforming life in North Carolina and also helping transform the state’s economy,” Alegria told Local Tech Wire. “Transformational grants are just for that purpose. We want to contribute to programs that are truly transformative in nature.”

The fact the additional facilities will be used to help improve education was crucial in the grant decision, Alegria explained.

“With every request proposal, we ask ourselves the same question – why should we? The Biotech center aligns very well with our foundation’s mission charter which is to improve life and science literacy and to encourage young people to pursue science careers,” she added. “The Biotech Center has the same core as a charter, and this was a very reasonable decision for us to make.”

The Center will receive the $1 million over the next five years.

The Biotech Center, which receives most of its funding from the state, turns 25 in 2009 and is often cited by industrial and private sector leaders as one of the major reasons North Carolina now employs nearly 60,000 people statewide in life science-related jobs. Biotech Center data shows that well over 500 companies are involved in biotech and related services in the state.

Norris Tolson, the Center’s chief executive officer, noted that the biotech industry continues to grow in North Carolina and that the Center’s expansion will aid in that growth.

"We have the potential to create an additional 65,000 to 70,000 jobs by 2020 as we develop new applications of biotechnology right here in North Carolina," Tolson said.

Facilities in the new structure will be used for job creation, education, entrepreneurship, business development and university research.

The current building, which opened in 1992, covers 47,000 square feet, and cost $6 million.

Designed to meet so-called LEED energy and environmental requirements, the addition was designed by architectural firm Perkins + Will. The Charlotte firm designed the original Biotech headquarters. General contractor for the project is SKANSKA.

Also making contributions to the expansion were the Duke Energy Foundation, Wilmington-based Pharmaceutical Product Development (PPD) and the Triangle University Center for Advanced Studies.

The purposes for the expansion include helping further grow the state’s life science industry and also provide resources for education of future biotech workers and scientists.

"This industry contributes $45.8 billion to the state’s economy each year, a testament to the investment this Center leverages with state dollars," said Arthur Pappas, chairman of the Biotechnology Center’s board of directors who also is managing partner of the venture-capital firm Pappas Ventures.

"Investing in expansion now is essential for the state to benefit from the projected high growth in life science research, development and job creation over the next 10 years,” he added.

Robert Ingram, vice chairman of pharmaceuticals at GlaxoSmithKline who led the Center’s building committee efforts, added that the expansion will “allow the Center to extend” its leadership in growing the state’s biotech sector.”