Boston-based real estate firm Berkeley Investments plans to break ground on a 203,000-square-foot biomanufacturing facility in Billerica next year, another in a spate of projects that have been popping up across Greater Boston’s suburbs.
The 22-acre site at 161 Concord Road is located off Route 3, adjacent to a campus for Boston-based chemical company Cabot Corp. Berkeley bought the property from Cabot Corp. in May for $18 million, according to a Middlesex County deed.
Some 1.7 million square feet of such facilities are under construction across the state, according to a recent report from industry group MassBio, and almost all of it is under construction outside Cambridge and Boston. King Street Properties is developing a five-building, $500 million biomanufacturing campus in Devens, for example, with energy startup Commonwealth Fusion Systems planning a facility there and drugmaker Bristol Myers Squibb also developing a 244,000-square-foot cell therapy plant nearby.
Biomanufacturing facilities are plants where drugs and other materials that go into the human body are made. Their physical proximity to the research labs where therapies are developed is a big plus, said Morgan Pierson, director of development at Berkeley Investments. It’s important — even more so after COVID-19 — for scientists to have access to the physical manufacturing of drugs, he said.
“Having a biomanufacturing site so close to Cambridge and Boston means that our life science companies can create more jobs while experiencing the safety, quality, and scientific benefits of keeping the biomanufacturing process operating in close proximity and in the US,” Pierson said in a statement.
The Billerica facility is expected to require 325 jobs at full capacity, from highly specialized scientific positions requiring PhDs to jobs that don’t require technical degrees, such as lab technicians.
Massachusetts trails states ― including Florida, Texas, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and California ― for total biomanufacturing jobs statewide, but the number of jobs in the industry is growing. The state reported just under 10,000 biomanufacturing workers in 2021 — up 15.2 percent from 2020. California, by comparison, had more than 50,000 biomanufacturing workers last year, according to a recent report from industry group MassBio.
“Industry expansion beyond Boston and Cambridge, and an increase in biomanufacturing jobs, will create new pathways for underrepresented populations to enter the workforce,” the MassBio report said.
Berkeley intends to break ground on the GMA Architects-designed facility early next year without a tenant pre-leased, with the goal of having a facility ready for a specific tenant’s requirements by the end of the year.