Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

July 3, 2014

$25M deal for vacant R&D lab; Cambridge pharmaceutical firm to buy Eisai plant

Pharmaceutical firm to buy Eisai plant

By Bill Kirk
bkirk@andovertownsman.com

---- — A Cambridge pharmaceutical company, which makes a drug that treats muscular dystrophy in young boys, recently announced it is buying the vacant Eisai research lab at 100 Federal St. in a deal worth $25 million.

Sarepta Therapeutic’s purchase of the facility, which was built in 1996 and upgraded in 2006 by Japan-based cancer-research company Eisai, should be finalized by next week.

Last November, Eisai announced layoffs of 72 employees from its Federal Street facility, part of a larger, company-wide layoff. By December, the rest of the jobs had been moved out of the 60,000-square-foot manufacturing plant and shifted to India and Japan as well as to Exton, Penn., according to FierceTech, a biotechnology news website.

The company continues to maintain a facility at 4 Corporate Drive off Shattuck Road, according to Paul Materazzo, director of planning for the town. A spokeswoman for the company said Eisai will continue to run a drug discovery research lab and office building in Andover.

“They still have a large presence here,” Materazzo said.

The purchase comes not only with the 18-year-old building, but also with 26 acres of land — which may be used to accommodate the company’s expansion plans, according to a spokesman with Sarepta.

“Once it’s fully operational, the plant will support 40 employees,” said Jim Baker of the company’s media relations department.

It is unclear if Sarepta will be creating new jobs or transferring employees from other sites owned by the 150-person company. It has a smaller manufacturing facility in Oregon and recently opened its global headquarters in Cambridge.

“Modifications are required for our business needs,” he said. “This will be a fully functional manufacturing facility ... with a possibility for expansion.”

Materazzo said while there is room at the site, wetlands could limit expansion plans somewhat.

“If they want to expand in the future, that’s great for the town,” Materazzo said. “We want to work with them to fulfill their business needs, within our rules and regulations. The property has some wetlands, but there are opportunities for expansion. Wetlands would have to be taken into consideration.”

He said Town Manager Reginald “Buzz” Stapczynski is eager to meet with company representatives.

“The town manager is hoping to talk to them about their business plan and what the town could do to work with them as a new corporate partner,” Materazzo said. “It’s great to see the building be reoccupied for this type of use.”

Sarepta plans to file by the end of the year for U.S. approval for a drug called Eteplirsen, which treats Duchenne muscular dystrophy. It is also working on developing an additional seven drugs that “target other genotypes,” which the spokesman called “follow-on drug candidates.” Duchenne muscular dystrophy affects 1 in 3,600 boys and causes rapid muscle degeneration and eventual death, according to the National Institutes of Health, or NIH. It is caused by a defective gene, but can occur in people with or without a known family history of the condition.

Baker said the property is being purchased for $15 million and the building will be retrofitted for an additional $10 million.