Sanofi eyes big Cambridge, Massachusetts, expansion for fast-growing Genzyme business: report

Many biopharma companies are cutting costs and slimming down—including Sanofi itself—but not in its Genzyme business.

The French pharma is looking to expand its rare disease footprint in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with 400,000 square feet of office and lab space that could house about 2,000 employees, The Boston Globe reported, citing real estate sources familiar with Sanofi’s search.

Moving thousands of jobs into Cambridge from the Greater Boston area would give the thriving biotech hub yet another boost and bring more Sanofi Genzyme workers into an innovation hotbed full of potential partners and potential hires down the road.

Sanofi confirmed that it's eyeing its Boston-area facilities for some changes. “The Greater Boston area is a key hub for Sanofi, where we currently have more than 15 separate offices, labs and manufacturing sites. In light of this, the company is developing a long-term real estate plan for the region,” a Sanofi spokesperson said in a statement to FiercePharma, adding that nothing has been finalized yet.

Genzyme tallies about 5,000 employees in Massachusetts, including its Cambridge headquarters. The company would like to bring at least some of those dispersed operations together, and will probably move some jobs from its Framingham, Massachusetts, manufacturing facility, while still have some room for future growth, says The Boston Globe.

“They need 400,000, maybe eventually up to 800,000 square feet,” Aaron Jodka, research director at real estate firm Colliers International, told the newspaper. “We’ve been hearing them attached to pretty much any big block of space in Cambridge.”

Fresh off its $11.6 billion acquisition of Waltham, Massachusetts-based Biogen spun-off, hemophilia drug developer Bioverativ, Sanofi has moved Genzyme from its old HQ to a brand new, 275,000-square-foot place at 50 Binney St., still in Kendall Square—a move it had planned for years.

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Shire had previously planned to take over the lease of the old Genzyme campus, which is adjacent to Shire’s own operations, with the original plan to make an innovation hub of its own. But that plan has been complicated by the Takeda buyout as the Japanese pharma will likely look for ways to consolidate instead. According to the Boston Business Journal last month, Shire has backed out of a deal to lease the place.

Per the Globe, Sanofi is evaluating a space close to Kendall Square at Cambridge Crossing, as well as buildings by MIT and Harvard, and it’s not year clear whether a deal has been reached. But several brokers who talked to the newspaper said the Cambridge Crossing site—close to Kendall Square—seems like the best option because it has large buildings with room to grow.

Under pressure from a declining diabetes business, Sanofi is going through a five-year restructuring unveiled in 2015 by CEO Oliver Brandicourt to help grow its Genzyme business and offset losses elsewhere. In December 2016, it announced a plan to cut 20% of its U.S. diabetes sales force back, and in January of this year, the company laid off 400 U.S. diabetes and cardiovascular salespeople.

And as its diabetes and CV franchise continues to plummet, Genzyme has come to Sanofi’s rescue, with special thanks to eczema recent launch Dupixent, whose €176 million ($204 million) in the second quarter of 2018 came 12% above analysts’ projections. Awaiting a key FDA decision in asthma soon, the drug is expected to grow to nearly $8.1 billion by 2024, according to pharmaceutical data intelligence firm Evaluate Pharma.

Taking into account its recent purchases of Bioverativ and Ablynx, Genzyme could use some extra pairs of hands to carry its growth.

The Greater Boston area has always been a hot biotech hub. Takeda just announced a plan to move its U.S. HQ from Chicago area to the greater Boston area, so that it could be closer to Shire. The Japanese pharma already has a strong presence in Cambridge with its previous acquisitions of Millennium and Ariad.

And in June, another French pharma, Ipsen, said it is moving its U.S. base from New Jersey to Kendall Square. As for the Cambridge Crossing campus, it recently welcomed Philips Healthcare's North American headquarters.