15 Nov 2008

New York City Angles To Become A Biotech Hub

The latest effort to transform the city into a magnet for R&D and investment has its official opening today in the 90-year-old Brooklyn Army Terminal, where the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, or IAVI, will occupy part of a cavernous warehouse built as a military supply depot during World War I.

The center is the latest effort in a long-running campaign to make New York a biotech capital and, as The New York Times notes, reduce the city’s economic dependence on Wall Street. “This is a down payment on an industry that we think is going to be a major tax generator for both the city and the state for many years,” Seth Pinsky, who heads the city’s Economic Development Corporation, tells the paper.

So far, the city has invested more than $35 million to build or renovate office and lab space for bioscience ventures, the paper writes, adding that about one-third of that is going toward the new quarters for IAVI in Brooklyn. The state has pledged an additional $48 million to convert 500,000 square feet of the Brooklyn Army Terminal into space for biotechs.

Also under development is the East River Science Park, a $700 million complex adjacent to New York University Medical Center in Manhattan, which will house more than 1 million square feet of office and lab space and is expected to be completed in 2010. “The academic medical centers that are here spin off about 20 companies per year and we’re missing out on them,” Lenzie Harcum, vp biosciences at the Economic Development Corporation, tells the paper.

The idea, of course, is to offer alternatives to budding upstarts that are persuaded to locate in places where biotech is established and operating costs are lower, such as San Diego or Cambridge, Massachusetts.

“The joke here was that venture capitalists came into New York from the West Coast with the three M’s - the money, the management and the moving van - and relocated them,” Kathryn Wylde, chief executive of the Partnership for New York City, an association of large employers that has invested in some biotech startups, tells the Times. “They either went to the West Coast, some went to New Jersey, a lot went to Massachusetts, some to New Haven.”


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