BioMed Realty Trust Inc., a publicly traded real estate investment trust, has the largest portfolio of life sciences office and lab space in the United States. The company is based in San Diego, but its largest holdings are in Kendall Square, where it has built 1.4 million square feet of space, owns 3.3 million square feet, and has another 63,000 square feet under construction.
Globe reporter Robert Weisman spoke with BioMed president and chief operating officer Kent Griffin during a recent trip to Cambridge. Here’s what he learned:
1Griffin, 44, who joined BioMed as chief financial officer in 2006, grew up in Jacksonville, Fla., graduated from Wake Forest University, and earned his MBA from the University of North Carolina. He has worked in commercial real estate financing in New York, San Francisco, and currently San Diego — but never in the Boston area. Despite the importance of Cambridge and Kendall Square to BioMed’s business, Griffin has no plans to move its headquarters east.
“You have to be a tough cookie to withstand the Boston winters,” he said. “I don’t know if our whole team could stand the winters here.”
2Griffin believes density rules in life sciences. BioMed owns and manages property in US medical technology hubs such as Greater Boston, the San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle, and San Diego, as well as Cambridge, England. But Kendall Square offers the densest cluster of biopharmaceutical activity.
“The life science industry is a global industry. But when you look at it from a macro picture, the United States still is the dominant provider of research and development globally, and Cambridge is the center of that. So because Cambridge is the center of the life science industry, it’s the center of our business. It is our largest market and represents over a third of our total portfolio. It’s a very tight concentrated location.”
3BioMed owns and manages some of the highest profile Kendall Square biotechnology properties, including 500 Kendall St., the 349,000-square-foot headquarters of rare diseases giant Genzyme, now owned by French drug maker Sanofi SA. It also owns the Kendall Square Apartments with 37 rental units and the 350 East Kendall Street Garage containing 1,400 parking spaces.
“All of our buildings are always in some form of evolution as the companies are always adapting and changing. So we’re always retooling the buildings to meet the tenants’ needs.”
4Griffin thinks the life sciences boom still has a lot of running room, despite the recent choppiness in biotechnology stocks.
“We are firm believers that the life sciences industry is going to grow faster than the broader economy. If you look at the biotech [stock] index as one data point, over the last three years it’s dramatically outperformed the broader S&P. In fact, if you look at commercial real estate in general, the markets where the life science industry is strong — Cambridge, San Francisco — those are the markets where commercial real estate in general is doing well.”
5Griffin worries that steadily rising office prices may be pushing startups out of Cambridge, eroding a key foundation of the life sciences cluster. With Vertex Pharmaceuticals abandoning its warren of old industrial buildings to consolidate on the Boston waterfront, Griffin hopes to redevelop the property to accommodate companies from early stage to mature.
“Part of what we hope to provide is space for the whole ecosystem.”
6Griffin is watching the emergence of the Innovation District across the Charles River in Boston. But he is not yet sold on that area as an alternative to Kendall Square.
“Our focus is Cambridge. The Fan Pier project [home to Vertex] is a great site, but I think most companies are going to continue to focus first on Cambridge. If they can’t find a home here, they may be forced to go across the river or out to the suburbs.”
7Training on trail runs outside San Diego, Griffin has completed a few half-marathons and is signed up for the Chicago Marathon later this year. But his true love is sailing.
“It’s convenient, because all of our properties are in coastal markets.”