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Bristol-Myers Squibb sets $250 million Devens expansion

Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., the global biopharmaceutical company, said Thursday that it will launch a $250 million expansion of its manufacturing complex in Devens and nearly double the size of its workforce there.

The expansion will add space for developing biotechnology drugs, called biologics, and for manufacturing those products for clinical trials, a requirement of the drug approval process.

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The plant, which occupies 89 acres on a former Army installation in Central Massachusetts, employs about 400 people; the expansion will allow the company to add another 350 workers.

Construction is expected to begin later this year and be completed in 2015.

“Biologics are increasingly important in the treatment of serious diseases and are a growing part of our company’s pipeline of potential new therapies,” Lou Schmukler, the president of global manufacturing and supply for Bristol-Myers Squibb, said in a statement. “This initiative is designed to accelerate [that] development.”

Governor Deval Patrick, who has made expanding the life sciences sector a priority of his administration, hailed the company’s decision.

“Thanks to our growth strategy of investing in education, innovation, and infrastructure, Massachusetts leads the world in life sciences,” he said in a statement.

“Our economic development team worked closely with Bristol-Myers as they weighed their options for where to expand, and we look forward to them creating more jobs and economic opportunities here in Massachusetts,” the statement said.

The planned additions will also help Bristol-Myers Squibb exceed the commitments it made to state and local officials who wooed the company to Massachusetts in 2006 with the offer of roughly $100 million in tax breaks and other incentives. In exchange, Bristol-Myers promised to invest at least $650 million and create 350 jobs initially, then add 200 more jobs at a later date. It completed construction on that original complex in 2009, after spending $750 million — the largest capital investment in the company’s history.

The company’s expansion will bring its investment in Devens to $1 billion and its employee count there to 750. The plan is to construct two buildings that will add about 200,000 square feet of laboratory and office space to the Devens complex, which currently occupies 400,000 square feet spread across six major buildings.

Susan R. Windham-Bannister, president of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center in Waltham, lauded Bristol-Myers’s expansion as the latest example of how the state’s life sciences sector is prospering. Bristol-Myers, based in New York, is just one of several of the biggest global biopharmaceutical firms that have a “very significant presence” in Massachusetts, she said, including the Anglo-Swedish firm Astra­Zeneca, French drug maker Sanofi, and Pfizer Inc. also of New York.

“It represents a trend that we are seeing where the largest biopharma companies in the world are continuing to invest in Massachusetts and expand their presence here,” Windham-Bannister added. A recent report commissioned by the Boston Foundation found that the life sciences sector has created jobs faster in Massachusetts than any other industry.

Windham-Bannister said the life sciences center has contributed to the industry’s success. Created as part of the decade­long, $1 billion initiative launched by Patrick in 2008, the center has focused its investments on promising young companies with technologies that attract global firms like Bristol-Myers.

“Obviously it has been quite a good investment,” Windham-Bannister said.

Erin Ailworth can be reached at eailworth@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @ailworth.

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