Baxter to open new research center in Kendall Square

Biopharmaceutical research facility will employ at least 400 in Kendall Square

Health care giant Baxter International Inc. said Monday it is leasing about 200,000 square feet of office space in the heart of Cambridge’s Kendall Square to open a biopharmaceutical research center that will employ at least 400 people.

Baxter, based in the Chicago suburb of Deerfield, Ill., has signed a 12-year lease at 650 East Kendall St., a building owned by a joint venture of BioMed Realty Trust and Prudential Real Estate Investors. The site, next to Genzyme’s headquarters, will be the “primary research and development hub” for Baxalta Inc., a biopharmaceuticals business Baxter plans to spin off as a stand-alone company next year, a Baxter spokesman said.


Struggling drugmaker Aveo Oncology on Friday said it would terminate its lease at the building, clearing the way for the long anticipated Baxter move.

The arrival of Baxter, which sells drugs to treat hemophilia, kidney disease, and immune disorders, will be the latest in string of coups for Massachusetts — and especially Cambridge — in luring biomedical companies from across the country and around the world. Last month, GE Healthcare said it would open a US headquarters in Marlborough for its life sciences business, adding about 220 jobs.

“Baxter was a huge undertaking and a substantial lease for us,” said Bill Kane, the Cambridge-based vice president of leasing and development for BioMed Realty. “We had to really fight for this. It’s another testament to just how great this area is for life sciences.”

Kane said Baxter executives were secretive about their search for space, dubbing their hunt Project Tiger and refusing to disclose the company’s name in early meetings with real estate brokers.

Cambridge City Manager Rich Rossi said the city proved to be attractive to Baxter, just as it has for Novartis AG, Sanofi SA, and other drugmakers, because of its cluster of biotechnology startups and the proximity to Boston teaching hospitals and their researchers.


“This is the epicenter of life sciences research in the world today,” Rossi said. “And for a company like Baxter to come here, they really want to be in that climate.”

Baxter early this year unveiled a plan to split into separate biopharmaceutical and medical products businesses in 2015. The biopharma business, Baxalta, will run the Cambridge operation but will be based in Illinois. It will move into the Kendall Square building in phases, starting this fall, as Aveo leaves its lease over the coming year.

“Once fully occupied within the next two years, we expect to bring together more than 400 employees at the new site,” said Brian Kyhos, a Baxter spokesman. “We are asking some employees to relocate to Cambridge and will be posting job listings for new and vacant positions.”

In a statement, Baxter said some of its employees from California and Europe will be asked to move to the Cambridge research center.

One of the few large drugmakers that has not had a presence in the Boston area, Baxter last week agreed to invest up to $970 million in a collaboration with Cambridge cancer drug maker Merrimack Pharmaceuticals Inc., which has offices blocks away from East Kendall Street. Under that deal, Baxter’s biopharma unit will get exclusive rights to market overseas Merrimack’s experimental drug for pancreatic cancer and, potentially, other cancers.

Kyhos said Baxalta will run the Merrimack alliance from its Kendall Square site, which will also be the home for managing its drug development programs and clinical trials. He said some early-stage clinical development and other programs will remain in Austria.


Baxter will be the main tenant at 650 East Kendall St., occupying the top four floors and part of the first floor of the six-story, 282,000-square-foot building. Designed by architect Paul Zejfen, it features a large atrium, interior balconies, and exterior terraces. Ipsen SA, a French company developing medicines to treat cancers and endocrine and neuromuscular disorders, opened its own research center in the building in July, occupying 60,000 square feet.

Later this fall, Harvard professor and entrepreneur David Edwards plans to open Le Laboratoire on the ground floor. It will combine high-end dining with art exhibitions and work space. Edwards runs a similar operation in Paris.

Robert Weisman can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @GlobeRobW.