UPDATED: Baxter inks a big lease in the heart of Cambridge for biopharma R&D headquarters

Future Baxalta CEO Ludwig Hantson

Project Tiger has pounced. Chicago-based Baxter International ($BAX) has inked a 200,000-square-foot lease in the heart of Cambridge, MA's biotech hub which will become the new research center of its soon-to-be-spun-out biopharma division, Baxalta. BioMed Realty put out the word Monday evening that Baxalta will be moving into 650 East Kendall Street, which neighbors MIT and Harvard.

Baxalta plans to have a staff of 400 at the site, the company said in a release, with investigators focused on hematology, immunology and other key sectors. Investigators will be relocated from California and Europe, while the company headquarters remains in Illinois. The new facility will house business development, oncology and the biosimilars team. And Baxalta says it will keep an office in Vienna. 

"Critical elements to our success as an independent biopharmaceuticals company will be our ability to accelerate innovation, optimize R&D productivity, and deliver on our promise to patients. Joining this unmatched biotech community is an important step," said Ludwig Hantson, president of Baxter BioScience, who's been tapped to helm Baxalta.

Just days ago Baxter signed a $970 million collaboration deal with Merrimack ($MACK), one of the Boston locals. And it's been adding other pacts as well as Baxalta prepares to go independent.

The company will split next year, with the biopharma side taking up space that is being freed by Aveo ($AVEO), which has been crippled by regulatory setbacks. Baxter, which had initially told reporters in Chicago that it planned to stay put despite the corporate split, took a 12-year lease on the space.

It's been known for some weeks now that Baxter was behind Project Tiger, the code name for a sizable pharma company looking for a big lease. Once Aveo completed its retreat from Cambridge, Baxter was ready to sign.

The deal marks a major coup for the Cambridge/Boston biotech hub, which has been attracting Big Pharma R&D groups from around the world as they look to relocate to the major crossroads in drug research. Pfizer ($PFE), Novartis ($NVS) and more recently Amgen ($AMGN) have all either been beefing up their local research ops or searching for new space, making Kendall Square one of the hottest pieces of biotech real estate in the world.

"By forging this long-term connection with Baxter in Cambridge, we have the opportunity to support their technological expertise and scientific innovation for many years to come," said BioMed CEO Alan Gold in a statement, "and we look forward to providing the best environment for their business and employees to continue their great work."

- here's the release