Booming Gilead is opening new labs, planning fresh hires in R&D blitz

Flush with a new, multibillion-dollar drug franchise, a booming Gilead is now hiring investigators for its fast-growing operations in Canada. The biotech is doubling down on its $100 million R&D investment in Alberta, Canada, with plans to expand on the new lab that opened this week at its Edmonton campus as it hires up to 170 more scientists for its R&D work.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony today comes as construction is underway on Gilead's second lab, due to open now in the spring of 2016. Gilead ($GILD) says that this second $100 million project will add a new process tower for API manufacturing as well as a maintenance facility and upgrades. "The process tower will expand the capabilities of the operations in Edmonton to allow for the handling of more potent compounds," the company said in a statement. The Edmonton facility provided clinical trial quantities for Gilead's research operations, including clinical trial supplies for HCV, HIV and new cancer therapies.

Gilead has enjoyed huge and rapid growth as its hep C drugs have set a new standard of care for that disease. Sovaldi registered a jaw-dropping $10.3 billion in sales last year, and its combo therapy has continued to rack up big numbers in the first quarter of this year. Building on its blockbuster HIV franchise with an ambitious pipeline of new drugs in the clinic, the big biotech has been investing heavily in new facilities and a growing number of staffers in all areas of the business.

At its HQ campus in Foster City, CA, Gilead has been working on a complete makeover that includes razing a dozen buildings while building 17 more. Gilead reported in its latest 10-K that it had 7,000 fulltime employees at the end of January, up from 6,100 the year before.

Gilead's Robin Nicol

"The state-of-the-art research and development facility that opens today marks an important milestone for Gilead as it further increases its contribution to Alberta's growing life-sciences industry," said Dr. Robin Nicol, the GM of Gilead Alberta ULC. "As Gilead expands into new therapeutic areas, the additional laboratory space enables our process and analytical chemistry teams in Edmonton to make an even greater contribution to the development of life-saving therapies for patients."

- here's the release