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Biotech and Pharmaceuticals Rent Labs To Cut Costs

Biotech and pharmaceutical companies are saving money by renting laboratory facilities instead of constructing expensive, new research sites.

June/July 10
The University of Michigan purchased a Pfizer lab and established its North Campus Research Center there.
The University of Michigan purchased a Pfizer lab and established its North Campus Research Center there.
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Ann Arbor, Michigan
In 2008 Pfizer closed its Ann Arbor, Michigan laboratory, which employed more than 2,700 people. (The blockbuster heart medication Lipitor was invented there.) The University of Michigan (UM) soon purchased the laboratory for the bargain price of $108 million.

Renamed the North Campus Research Complex (NCRC), the facility's 30 buildings on 174 acres contain more than two million square feet of space. It consists of 33 percent laboratory units; 17 percent laboratory support space for machine, electrical shops, and other support facilities; 14 percent for manufacturing facilities, including a plant that produces experimental drugs for clinical trials; and 8 percent for amenities.

Research will comprise part of the facility, and 300 researchers are moving in during early 2010. "They are the first of thousands who will help refine research at Michigan in the years to come," says university president Mary Sue Coleman. The university will continue to recruit tenants. "Our initial effort is to develop a critical mass of researchers at NCRC that will serve as the linchpin for an increased level of public and private partnerships, but with the first emphasis on critical mass," says Mary Masson, of the university's service group for the site. "We do expect to attract public-private partnerships, provide business incubator space, and also rent some of the space to outside companies."

The university is anticipating a new, collaborative research environment. "We're entering a period when university researchers will be working hand-in-glove with government and industry partners so that all aspects of a problem, from the fundamental to the applied, will be addressed simultaneously," says UM vice president for research Stephen Forrest. The attractiveness of space at NCRC is provided by the cadre of interdisciplinary academic researchers who are committed to translating their research into real world business.

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