Baxalta opens up an R&D shop in biotech's hottest neighborhood

Fledgling biopharma player Baxalta ($BXLT) cut the ribbon on its new Cambridge, MA, R&D center as the company touts plans to launch 20 new products by 2020 and shakes off pervasive buyout interest from rival Shire ($SHPG).

The outpost, nestled in the biotech hotbed of Kendall Square, will house about 500 employees by the end of the year, Baxalta said, focusing on oncology, biosimilars and business development. Like many drugmakers before it, Baxalta turned to Cambridge to rub shoulders with top-tier research institutions and innovative biotechs, looking to partner up and tap local expertise as it pushes forward with its ambitious pipeline plan.

"Here we are surrounded by some of the top minds in the industry, immersed in a biotech community that is unparalleled by any other in the world," Baxalta Chief Scientific Officer John Orloff said in a statement. "Our goal is to become a leading development powerhouse to deliver innovative treatments for patients with unmet medical needs."

Cambridge's R&D siren song has spurred similar endeavors from Eli Lilly ($LLY) and Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY), the neighborhood's most recent transplants, while long-time tenants including Novartis ($NVS) and Biogen ($BIIB) have deepened their ties to the area.

Meanwhile, Baxalta is facing some unwelcome M&A attention from Shire, rebuffing a $30 billion buyout offer earlier this year. Shire has publicly stated that it's unwilling to give up on the idea of a merger, and reports have surfaced over the past month suggesting the company may come forward with a sweetened pitch in the coming weeks.

But Baxalta, only a few months removed from spinning out of Baxter ($BAX), contends that its pipeline is too promising to consider a sale at this stage. The company has about 40 programs in development across hematology, oncology and rare diseases, and management believes its investigational products can add $2.5 billion in annual sales to the roughly $6 billion in revenue it banks now.

- read the statement