Sanofi has found a buyer for its biomanufacturing plant in Allston, but the new operator won’t be keeping its property tax breaks.
The Boston Planning & Development Agency on Thursday is expected to terminate the site’s tax-break status, a necessary step for Sanofi to transfer the former Genzyme facility to its new operator, National Resilience Inc. Sanofi, the French drug maker that acquired Genzyme nearly one decade ago, is moving its manufacturing work in Allston to its Framingham campus.
Resilience, as it is known, is a newcomer to the biotech world. Formed with $800 million-plus of investors’ capital last year, the San Diego-based contract manufacturer announced its launch in November, with a goal of easing the supply-chain issues faced by drug companies.
Resilience’s interest in the 310,000-square-foot plant overlooking the Charles River provides further confirmation that this part of Allston is well-positioned to become a life sciences hub that would augment Kendall Square, the industry’s global epicenter. At least two major mixed-use projects with labs are already planned for nearby sites along Western Avenue, including one complex dubbed the Nexus and Harvard’s Enterprise Research Campus.
“It certainly looks to me that this is Kendall Square, spilling over into our neighborhood,” state Representative Michael Moran said. “With the lack of space in Kendall Square and our proximity to Cambridge and to Harvard, it makes sense the direction [of biotech development] would go in this area.”
About 600 employees and contractors worked at the factory at its peak, in 2015, and about 250 work there today, according to a Sanofi spokesperson. The spokesperson added that Sanofi decided to sell the Allston plant to Resilience with the transition to Framingham in mind, and to “provide a new future for the site and the talented women and men in Allston, including preparing currently unused parts of the facility” for manufacturing advanced therapeutics.
A Resilience spokesman said the company has already offered jobs to everyone at the plant at 500 Soldiers Field Road, and “substantially all” of them have accepted. More jobs could be coming: Resilience will continue to make products there for Sanofi through the end of 2021 and expand production into other areas, he said. Resilience will employ more than 600 people nationwide after it acquires the Allston plant.
The arrival of a new contract manufacturer as labs proliferate on both sides of the Charles will likely be celebrated by local biotechs. The wait time for contracted manufacturing work can be a major holdup for drug development and commercialization.
Genzyme’s decision in late 1991 to build a factory on the land was a big victory for Boston at the time, after a number of cities courted the project. As part of its aggressive efforts to woo the company, the Boston Redevelopment Authority (now known as the BPDA) approved a special property tax designation for Cambridge-based Genzyme known as a “121A project,” typically designed for blighted sites.
These designations curb property-tax increases over time. City officials could not provide an assessment on Wednesday of how much this tax break has been worth for Genzyme and Sanofi over the years. The tax-break status was to initially last for 15 years, and later was extended for another 15 years in 2007, setting it up to expire in 2022.
Genzyme originally had a long-term lease for the 8.6-acre site with what was then the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, but the property is now controlled by Harvard University, according to city officials. The transfer of the plant operations to Resilience is slated to occur within the next month or so, assuming the BPDA vote goes through as planned.
Cofounder and venture capitalist Robert Nelsen launched Resilience in response to the global pandemic and concerns about the ability to manufacture treatments for COVID-19 and other ailments quickly in the United States. Nelsen, whose firm Arch Venture Partners is a major Resilience investor, wanted to focus on creating better ways to make treatments for viral outbreaks, as well as next-generation medicines such as cell and gene therapies.
Moran, the area’s state rep, said he hopes Resilience will be more engaged with the Allston community than Genzyme was. “Hopefully,” he said, “the new owners would have an openness to being part of our community in a more meaningful way.”