- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 15, 2000

The Rockville, Md., company that mapped the human genome now is mapping space for a new laboratory.

Celera Genomics Group is turning one floor in its eight-level headquarters complex or about 30,000 square feet into a protein research lab, becoming the latest biotechnology company to expand in the Interstate 270 corridor that stretches between Montgomery and Frederick counties.

"The lab is a critical element in our program of work," said Celera spokeswoman Heather E. Kowalski.

Celera mapped the human genetic code last spring after years of research. The completed map is expected to help scientists and researchers better diagnose and fight diseases.

Now the company is turning its attention to discovering new proteins, which can help researchers develop better drugs, Ms. Kowalski said.

Celera is planning to hire about 60 new workers for the lab, which would bring its number of employees in Rockville to about 660, she said. The company does not disclose the cost of real-estate projects.

More than 200 biotechnology companies and organizations including federal researchers are in Montgomery and Frederick counties, according to the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development. Real-estate brokers say these tenants are helping energize the office market in the I-270 corridor.

Last week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration renewed its lease for about 66,000 square feet of space on Nicholson Lane in Rockville, according to Transwestern, a Bethesda brokerage.

Also, the Montgomery County Department of Economic Development said TherImmune Research Corp., a Rockville company that conducts non-clinical medical research, is planning between 30,000 and 40,000 square feet of new space in Gaithersburg.

Human Genome Sciences Inc. now based in a 300,000-square-foot facility in Rockville is contemplating a new campus of between 400,000 and 500,000 square feet in Gaithersburg, according to sources familiar with the company's plans.

Amy Finan, Montgomery County's director of technology program development, said the county owns and operates the Shady Grove Life Sciences Center, a 300-acre Rockville complex that is home to six companies including Human Genome Sciences as well as public tenants like a University of Maryland satellite campus.

The center is fully leased. Ms. Finan said biotechnology companies that might otherwise set up shop in the center have been forced to look elsewhere in the county, where they must compete for scarce space.

"The good news is the Life Sciences Center is full. The bad news is the Life Sciences Center is full," she said.

Most biotechnology clients occupy a mix of office and laboratory space, which is usually built with few amenities so clients can customize the buildings to meet the specific needs of their companies.

Montgomery County is home to about 22 million square feet of this research and development "flex" space, and Frederick has about 8 million square feet, according to Delta Associates, an Alexandria, Va.-based real-estate research firm.

Delta estimates about 220,000 square feet of new research flex space is planned in Montgomery, and about 550,000 square feet is planned in Frederick.

Rent for research flex space in the two counties is between $10 and $13 per square foot, compared with rental rates of $18 to $34 per square foot for office space in those jurisdictions.

Jim Cahill, vice president for Staubach Cos., an international brokerage that specializes in finding space for biotechnology companies, said the businesses are becoming more savvy clients.

As companies like Human Genome Sciences and Celera mature, they are planning larger campuses because they will have more room to expand than they would in a traditional office setting, Mr. Cahill said.

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