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Firms filling up 640 Mem Drive

The old Ford plant at 640 Memorial Drive being renovated by MIT is now 93 percent leased by medical technology and biotechnology firms.

The anchor tenant for the building is Lifeline Systems, Inc., of Watertown, involved in the light manufacturing and distribution of personal response safety systems. Lifeline will occupy 40 percent of the building. The Cambridge landmark was renovated specifically to suit biotech and health related firms.

The fact that the building was so quickly leased attests to the health of the biotech/medical technology fields in the area. Of the four tenants, the building brings two new firms to Cambridge to occupy what is fast becoming a biotechnology corridor.

The tenants new to Cambridge are Lifeline and currently Boston-based Endogen, which provides products (primarily testing kits) to support the biotech industry. These two companies will add an employment base of 240 jobs to Cambridge. Also moving to the building are Millennium Pharmaceuticals, a biotech research company relocating from Kendall Square, and Pathology Services, also from Cambridge. Millennium and Pathology Services are both expected to generate job growth over the next few years.

Tenants have begun construction of their interior space. The first tenant, Millennium Pharmaceuticals, is expected to move into the building this month.

The 640 Memorial Drive building was originally constructed by the Ford Motor Company in 1916 for Model T auto assembly. MIT acquired the property in 1956 and leased it to Polaroid until 1984.

The building contains 185,000 square feet of rentable space. Fallon, Hines & O'Connor, a commercial real estate broker based in Boston, is handling the building leasing.

Other buildings in Cambridge and the Memorial Drive area that comprise the growing biotech section include 600 Memorial Drive, developed by BioDevelopment Group; Genzyme Corp.'s Allston Landing facility; University Park at MIT; and the upcoming Biogen building, for which ground was just broken at Cambridge Center.

MIT's involvement in the field of biotechnology is quite extensive. The nation's leader in technology licensing, last year, 30-40 percent of MIT's licensing agreements were in bioscience.

The Institute has served as a magnet for biotech and medical technology related firms. According to a 1989 Bank of Boston study, since 1980, MIT alumni have spawned 20 biotech companies including 11 based in Cambridge, such as Repligen, Alkermes and Organogenesis. These companies have expanded the employment base in Massachusetts and have established the state as one of the country's emerging biotech areas.

A version of this article appeared in the January 26, 1994 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 38, Number 20).

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