Decibel Therapeutics has picked the Fenway area of Boston as the location for its new headquarters and laboratories. In doing so, the Third Rock Ventures-spawned firm has shunned Kendall Square and the other congested hot spots of the Boston biotech scene in favor of a comparative backwater.
When its 32,000 square feet of space are ready to move into early next year, Decibel will call 1325 Boylston Street in Boston’s Fenway area home. Decibel is, according to its CEO Steven Holtzman, the first biotech to set up a base in the Fenway. But with rents in Kendall Square soaring as vacancy rates head in the opposite direction, Holtzman, a veteran of Boston biotech, has a hunch Decibel will come to be seen as a more of a trendsetter than an outlier.
“I would be surprised if we don’t have biotech brethren there in the next couple of years,” he told The Boston Globe.
For that to happen, other biotechs will have to reach the conclusion that the benefits of being in the thick of it no longer outweigh the costs. Those costs have ticked up over the past few years as the growth of the biotech scene in and around Kendall Square has lured a string of Big Pharmas, each of which is hoping some of the innovative spirit will rub off on their operations. Yet while people have been bemoaning rising rents for several years, the pull of Kendall Square has remained strong.
“I’m always struck by how some people think you have to be within a few hundred yards of Kendall Square to succeed,” Holtzman said.
If Decibel can demonstrate that setting up shop a couple of miles away from Kendall Square is unlikely to be the factor that makes or breaks a biotech, it could encourage other companies to branch out.
For Decibel, its choice of headquarters puts it in close proximity to the Longwood Medical and Academic Area. The plan is to collaborate with the biomedical labs that occupy Longwood.
The new site will also support Decibel’s growth. Having rounded up $52 million in Series A funds last year, Decibel is planning to bring its headcount up toward 50 by the end of the 2016. Once ensconced in its new home, Decibel will be free to continue its hiring drive, resulting in a forecast doubling of its staff by the end of 2017.
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