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Cambridge market sizzles as biotech ditches the burbs

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George Scangos, CEO of Biogen Idec

The foibles of the country's real estate market are largely absent in biotech's boomtown. Like pioneers rushing for gold, biotech and pharma outfits have swept into Cambridge, MA, and dismissed the hefty property costs in search of talent and technology that could lead to lucrative new drugs.

In a New York Times article, Biogen Idec ($BIIB) CEO George Scangos serves as a leading mover in the industry's rush to Cambridge. After Scangos took the top job at Biogen in 2010, he quickly jettisoned his predecessor's plan of keeping business folks and executives a half-hour outside Boston in Weston, MA, while R&D stayed in Cambridge. And now Biogen is planning to ditch its HQ in sleepy Weston for a new $500 million facility under construction in the biotech hotbed of Cambridge.

Of course, Scangos has plenty of company. As the Times reports, the biotech industry's growth is the leading factor in the whopping 3.4 million square feet of space at various stages of construction or planning in the city that sits across the Charles River from Boston.

Pfizer ($PFE) has been moving research and hundreds of employees to Cambridge as it exits facilities in Groton, CT, Sandwich, U.K., and elsewhere. Novartis ($NVS), which houses its global R&D operation in Cambridge, is erecting two major buildings there at a cost of $600 million. The list goes on.

In general the burbs outside Boston offer cheaper digs than the city. Yet biopharma isn't the insurance industry. It needs copious inventions to thrive. And the cost of real estate in Cambridge--which offers a smorgasbord of biotech talent and innovations--has become another cost of doing business for a bevy of biotech and pharma outfits.

"It's an amazing place to be," Scangos told the Times. "The intellectual firepower that is in Cambridge, between Harvard and MIT and the number of companies, is quite remarkable."

- check out the Times article

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