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Biotech companies' hiring expansion may increase space demands

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The BioSpace life science publication reported the number of biotech employers posting jobs in Southern California rose 31 percent, year over year -- which could fuel the demand for additional biotechnology space.

San Diego wasn’t broken out, but BioSpace noted that 238 different employers, including many here, have posted job notices during the past 12 months in the “Biotech Beach” hubs of Southern California.

These include La Jolla, Torrey Pines and Sorrento Valley along with Los Angeles, Santa Monica and Irvine.

Companies either locally owned or having a major local presence here taking out employment ads in San Diego include Ajinomoto Althea, Takeda California, Genzyme Corp., BioNano Genomics and Dart Neuroscience LLC.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports employment in biopharmaceutical and medical device manufacturing will increase by 10 percent this decade -- that could increase demand for additional life science space.

A Cushman & Wakefield Global Life Sciences report noted when Althea Technologies (now Ajinomoto Althea) needed to expand the biotech’s Sorrento Mesa footprint, it recently leased 25,800 square feet in the Pacific Technology Park at 9393 Waples St. for 65 months at $1,198,700.

The new lease brought the company to 105,000 square feet in four adjacent buildings.

Recently, Acadia Pharmaceuticals and Sova Pharmaceuticals increased their Torrey Pines Mesa footprints to 19,000 and 16,400 square feet, respectively, during the quarter.

The demand has been strong enough during the past decade that Rancho Bernardo-based BioMed Realty Trust (NYSE: BMR) has invested $5 billion in life science real estate from San Diego to Boston since its initial public offering in August 2004.

It has ownership interests in more than 16 million square feet across the country.

BioMed spokesman Rick Howe said his company owns about 2 million square feet of life science property in San Diego County.

During the six months ended June 30, BioMed executed 49 leasing transactions representing about 1.48 million square feet throughout its portfolio.

This included 24 new leases totaling 842,501 square feet and 25 renewed leases totaling 639,254 square feet. BioMed declined to disclose how much of this was in San Diego County.

While Tracy Murphy, a locally based BioMed senior director, didn’t say how much of that leasing was here, she added a jump in hiring has led to increased leasing in the 10,000- to 40,000-square-foot size ranges in San Diego County.

“The activity for these buildings has been very good,” Murphy said.

Murphy said BioMed has a couple of prospective tenants for a 67,998-square-foot building it just redeveloped at 10835 Road to the Cure.

“That’s about 45 percent leased but it was just delivered,” Murphy said.

Murphy said because San Diego County is so geographically constrained, the biotech space market for will be strong for years.

“I think we’re starting to turn into a landlords’ market,” Murphy said, adding that Class A options for biotech space are lessening. “This is at a time when VC [venture capital] money is free-flowing like the good old days.”

Nationally, venture capital funds flowing to biotech firms amounted to $1.8 billion in the United States during the second quarter, according to a joint report by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) and the National Venture Capital Association.

A total of 174 life science companies around the country received at least some funding.

In San Diego County, PWC and the Venture Capital Association reported a total of 45 life science venture capital infusions amounted to $351 million during the first half of 2013.

The 2012 report tallied 105 for about $1.14 billion worth of biotech venture capital funds in the San Diego market.

That was compared with 115 venture capital infusions amounting to $927.66 million in 2011.

Joel Marcus, Alexandria Real Estate Equities (NYSE: ARE) CEO, told the Transcript his company owns more than 3 million square feet life science space in San Diego County as of June 30. These properties are an average of about 97 percent leased.

“I think big pharma has been taking advantage of a real robust IPO [initial public offering] window, and San Diego is a place where there is a lot of depth,” Marcus said.

Although Marcus said biotech hiring is fueling demand for new space, he said his firm might be leasing more if more were available.

Marcus said Alexandria has acquired a property along North Torrey Pines Road near the Hilton Torrey Pines, where it plans to develop 150,000 square feet of new life science space.

“If someone wanted 150,000 square feet today, I don’t know where they would go,” Marcus said.

On July 5, Alexandria acquired 10121/10151 Barnes Canyon Road, a 116,000-square-foot office property located in the Sorrento Mesa submarket for $13.1 million. The property is currently 100 percent occupied with leases that expire in 2014 and 2015.

“We intend to convert the existing office space into laboratory space through redevelopment when the space becomes available,” Alexandria wrote.

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