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Harvard-MIT Biotech Center to Build New Facility in Watertown, Mass.

Wed August 04, 2021 - Northeast Edition
The Harvard Crimson

The building in Watertown, Mass., that will house Landmark Bio, Harvard and MIT's new biological research and manufacturing facility. (Alexandria Real Estate Equities Inc. photo)
The building in Watertown, Mass., that will house Landmark Bio, Harvard and MIT's new biological research and manufacturing facility. (Alexandria Real Estate Equities Inc. photo)

A public-private partnership led by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) began construction on a new 40,000 sq.-ft. biological research and manufacturing facility in Watertown, Mass., on July 29.

Harvard also has announced that Ran Zheng, a biotechnology industry veteran, has been tabbed as the research center's inaugural chief executive officer.

Previously known as the Massachusetts Center for Advanced Biological Innovation and Manufacturing since its formation in late 2019, the scientific research facility has been re-named Landmark Bio. It will continue to foster partnerships between academics, biopharma and medical leaders to accelerate the production and delivery of new treatment technologies to patients.

Landmark Bio began construction on its new facility at the Arsenal on the Charles in Watertown, where it plans to open offices and labs at the start of 2022, according to a press release. It signed a lease on the facility in January after raising $76 million in funding.

University Provost Alan M. Garber, who also serves as the chair of Landmark Bio's board, said in the statement that the Watertown center's construction is only the beginning of efforts to "innovate" and "support" the creation of biological therapies.

"The facility will ease key bottlenecks in the development of some of the most promising approaches to therapy today," he explained.

The new Landmark Bio center is designed to house manufacturing space for clinical trial products, innovation and development labs, quality control services, and offices and meeting spaces, according to the release.

Zheng Arrived ‘At the Perfect Time'

With more than 25 years of leadership experience at major pharmaceutical companies including Amgen and most recently as chief technical officer at Orchard Therapeutics, Zheng began her new position at Landmark Bio in March, the Harvard Crimson reported.

"As a leader with broad and deep industry expertise and an impressive record of achievement in technology development and global clinical development, Ran comes to this role at the perfect time," Garber said.

Led by Zheng, Landmark Bio plans to recruit more than 100 experts in emerging biotechnologies such as cancer immunotherapy and CRISPR/Cas9 editing.

"I am very excited to join the Landmark Bio team and collaborate with the extraordinary scientists, physicians and entrepreneurs who are in the forefront of biological innovation," Zheng said in the release. "We have a unique opportunity to harness the power of mission-driven collaboration and help turn today's cutting-edge research into tomorrow's breakthrough therapies and shape the future of human health."

The Watertown facility's initial areas of focus will include cell and gene therapy, gene editing, and messenger RNA products — all promising biotechnologies with the potential to treat and cure life-threatening diseases such as cancer, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. The use of mRNA in the clinical setting has been spotlighted in the last year with the successful development of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

Landmark Bio will partner with several Harvard Medical School affiliates and collaborate with the state government through the Massachusetts Life Science Center (MLSC), an economic development and investment agency.

In the release, Massachusetts Housing and Development Secretary Mike Kennealy said state leaders and MLSC are "committed" to supporting the Landmark Bio center's "immense potential" in innovation.

"The Commonwealth has long recognized the power of public-private partnerships to unlock new opportunities that create jobs, spur economic development and strengthen burgeoning areas of our economy such as biomanufacturing," he said.

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