Novartis' $600M R&D campus in Boston taking form amid cutbacks elsewhere

Novartis' ($NVS) Boston-area scientists appear to be getting the royal treatment in the company's planned $600 million complex in Cambridge, MA, where a who's-who lineup of ace designers has been assembled for the project, The Boston Globe reports. As the Swiss drug giant hands pink slips to R&D folks elsewhere, site work has already begun for what is expected to be an architectural gem of glass, granite and terra cotta to add to the company's already sizable research base in MIT's backyard.

Maya Lin, an architect behind the landmark Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., has been tapped for the design team on Novartis' building project on Massachusetts Avenue. To complement the drugmaker's desire for its scientists from different disciplines to mingle--in order to join forces on breakthrough drugs--the complex will feature meeting areas, courtyards and close proximity to the company's existing R&D and office buildings, according to the Globe article.

The project exemplifies the growing focus of biopharmaceutical outfits on the Boston area, which enjoys a world-class cluster of top academic centers, research hospitals and innovative companies. Drugmakers want ample access to this cluster to score talent and science to lead the way to future medicines. While Novartis' global R&D base in Cambridge gets a shiny new campus, however, the company is scaling back other U.S. and Swiss operations in an effort to streamline development activities. Novartis' neuroscience drug unit in Basel, Switzerland, is reportedly one of the latest casualties.

The Globe reports that the new complex will house Novartis' growing workforce in Cambridge, where it's already the largest corporate employer in the city, which is across the Charles River from Boston. And the Boston area's collegiate atmosphere is something that the drugmaker hopes to capture with the complex slated to open in 2015.

"I wanted this to feel not like an isolated island, but something penetrable for everyone from MIT to walk around,'' Mark Fishman, the president of the company's Institutes for Biomedical Research, told the Globe. "We want people to mix there just as they would at a university.''

- check out the Globe's article