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Drugmaker selects site for new HQ


MedImmune Inc., which late last year narrowed its search for a new headquarters to several sites in Montgomery County, said yesterday that it has settled on Gaithersburg for the $70 million project.

The biopharmaceutical company plans to break ground by October for the building at Quince Orchard Drive and Great Seneca Highway and hopes employees can begin moving by the end of 2002, MedImmune spokesman Lori Weiman said.

Plans for the site are subject to review by the city of Gaithersburg, as well as the finalization of financing.

The location is a 25-acre open field about a mile from the biopharmaceutical company's headquarters on West Watkins Mill Road. The new site is owned by Washington-based commercial real estate firm Quadrangle Development Corp. in partnership with General Electric Co.

Quadrangle will build the headquarters, which is being designed by Hellmuth, Obata and Kassabaum, PC.

MedImmune occupied part of a single-story building at its current location when it moved there in 1991. It had no drugs on the market. But its ensuing success has meant growth, and its 400 headquarters employees are spread out across three buildings on that site, as well as another building nearby.

Today, the company has five drugs on the market, including the blockbuster Synagis, designed to prevent respiratory infections in premature infants. That drug accounted for $221 million of MedImmune's $245 million in revenue during the first quarter, when the company's profit was $79 million.

In addition, MedImmune has eight drugs in various stages of testing in people and several drugs in fairly advanced stages of laboratory and animal testing.

Weiman said the company has added about 170 people a year for the last couple of years, overflowing its headquarters and forcing it to look elsewhere for extra space.

MedImmune also has manufacturing facilities in Frederick and Nijmegen, the Netherlands, with a total of about 830 employees.

"The construction of this facility represents the next phase of our company's growth," President Melvin D. Booth said in a statement.

The company plans to build its headquarters in three phases, with the initial $70 million phase giving it 210,000 feet of space. Phase I will include a 60,000-square- foot research and development facility, 150,000 square feet for administration and a covered parking lot. MedImmune plans to keep some employees at its West Watkins Mill site after Phase I construction is completed.

The new site has room for buildings encompassing up to 750,000 square feet - enough to accommodate 2,200 employees, Weiman said.

By comparison, MedImmune's current headquarters and research and development facilities total about 111,000 square feet.

MedImmune's decision to remain in Maryland was made last year, when the state authorized a $2.5 million conditional grant from its Sunny Day fund to help pay for its expansion.

Montgomery County has contributed a $500,000 conditional grant.

Shares of MedImmune closed yesterday at $37.18, down $1.70 or 4.37 percent.

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