Horizon Therapeutics lays out plans for Rockville R&D hub – Washington Business Journal – The Business Journals

Horizon Therapeutics PLC is hitting the gas on its Montgomery County expansion — while considering buyout offers from larger pharmaceutical companies.
Roughly a year since the Dublin company committed to building a research and development hub in Rockville and nearly two years after it acquired Gaithersburg’s Viela Bio Inc. for $3 billion, it is now deep into the construction of a facility at 9810 Darnestown Road. That site is part of Alexandria Real Estate Equities Inc.’s Alexandria Center at Traville Gateway campus, where other major life sciences companies including Merck KGaA’s MilliporeSigma are also planting roots.
Horizon, a commercial-stage company developing treatments for rare, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, says its planned 192,000-square-foot facility will include 60,000 square feet for laboratory space.
The expansion comes as Horizon engages in preliminary talks with multiple pharmaceutical big-name companies — including Amgen Inc., Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Global Services Inc. and Sanofi SA — about a potential takeover offer. The Wall Street Journal first reported the news and Horizon confirmed it in a statement Tuesday. Horizon declined to comment for this story further.
Horizon’s stock shot up on the news, climbing more than 30% from Tuesday’s closing price of $78.76 to a high of $102.71 Wednesday in heavy trading. Horizon’s shares price were trading at $100.66 Thursday afternoon.
The Rockville project broke ground more than a year ago and is on track to open in 2025, said Bill Rees, Horizon’s vice president of translational sciences and the site lead for its Maryland facilities. Much of the exterior has been built and up next is the interior buildout, which will include conference and innovation space, and lab areas throughout the facility, he said.
To that end, the space will be designed by what Rees calls “organs of science” — think: separate areas for genomics, microscopy and histology, and downstream processing, for example. Scientists across the company — those in both Rockville and its R&D facility in San Francisco — have been involved in designing the building, Rees said.
“It doesn’t matter whether you’re in discovery research or technical operations or bioanalytical sciences,” Rees said. “You will go to the organ of the building where that type of science is enabled and that’s going to further drive collaboration across reporting structures.”
Horizon declined to disclose the cost of the project and other financial details.
Horizon, which has 116 local employees, is “rapidly growing” its staff until the new hub opens, with an ultimate goal of consolidating its team at the new building, Rees said.
“We’re a people company focused on people, patients,” he said. “And we believe axiomatically that to innovate, we need to be together, collaborating face to face — and we need to be able to do that in an environment that supports that.”
The new building won’t reach full occupancy until later in the decade, with an eventual target of hitting more than 200 discovery scientists, clinical researchers, operations and technical experts, Rees said. Horizon also sees it as a community resource going forward, capable of providing meeting space to regional patient advocacy groups, for instance.
Horizon counts 16 locations globally and has had a D.C. government affairs office, but has had no Greater Washington R&D capacity up to this point, Rees said. “What we’re talking about here is an entirely different grand endeavor.”
The new facility will position the company to more effectively conduct research around inflammatory and autoimmune conditions — including how one disease affects multiple patients differently, because not all diagnoses have the same drivers, Rees said.
That work will include advancing Horizon’s more than 20 clinical programs, including eight that kicked off in 2021 and three that started this year. In mid-November, the company completed enrollment in a clinical trial in Japan for Tepezza, its flagship treatment for active Thyroid Eye Disease, a progressive and rare autoimmune disease that can cause eye bulging, double vision, eye pain and vision loss. Tepezza earned the Food and Drug Administration’s approval in January 2020, but has not yet secured a regulatory green light in Japan. Horizon is also launching a new research collaboration with Johns Hopkins University’s School of Medicine to develop therapies for serious autoimmune and inflammatory conditions.
In explaining why Horizon (NASDAQ: HZNP) is doubling down on its suburban Maryland footprint, Rees touted the region’s diverse talent pool as well as its strength in academia, government and the biopharmaceutical industry, Rees said. Horizon entered the market with its March 2021 deal to acquire Viela Bio. That company launched in February 2018 out of AstraZeneca’s former R&D arm, MedImmune, went public in October 2019, and won its first drug approval in June 2020.
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