Cambridge’s status as a life sciences magnet seemed to be confirmed when Biogen Idec Inc., the largest Massachusetts-based biotechnology company, said it was moving its headquarters from Weston back to the Kendall Square campus that houses its research labs later this year.
But many mid-sized biotech and medical technology companies, transitioning from research to full-scale commercial businesses, are making the reverse move. For them, the fastest growing cluster may be Lexington, better known as the birthplace of the American Revolution.
“Once companies reach a certain maturity level, they are taking a hard analysis of whether it’s time to move out to the suburban market,” said Evan Gallagher, principal and director of life sciences and emerging technology companies for commercial real estate firm NAI Hunneman.
Among those decamping to Lexington over the past 18 months have been targeted therapeutics company Promedior Inc., industrial biochemistry pioneer Abpro Labs, and high-definition diagnostics firm Quanterix Corp. They are joining larger and more established biotechnology companies such as Shire plc, Cubist Pharmaceuticals Inc., and Curis Inc.
Driving the move is costs. As more venture capital, global pharmaceutical, and high-technology giants flood the Cambridge market, driving up prices, commercial space has soared to $55 per square foot compared to $30 per square foot in Lexington, according to Gallagher.
Lexington also is a straight shot up Route 2 from academic and biotechnology research collaborators in Cambridge. And it has plenty of low-slung brick industrial buildings—remnants from an earlier era of defense manufacturing—that are perfectly suited for life sciences labs.
“Cambridge is a place where ideas happen,” Gallagher said. “But Lexington has really taken over as the hot spot for life sciences, medical device, and biotech companies that require lab space. There’s no longer the pressure for mid-sized companies to stay in Cambridge.”