Real Estate

What could the BIOSECURE Act mean for commercial real estate in Massachusetts?

The U.S. Congress is currently considering legislation, already advanced with strong bipartisan support by committees in both the House and Senate, known as the BIOSECURE Act. Nationally, the pending legislation has raised significant concerns about biotech supply chains. However, little has been written about the bill’s potential impact on Greater Boston, arguably the world’s most important biotech cluster. So, what is the BIOSECURE Act, and what could it mean for us here in Massachusetts?

The BIOSECURE Act 

The legislation (which you can read helpful briefings on from a variety of law firms here, here, here, or here) is on its face a response to concerns about Chinese Communist Party access to Americans’ genetic information, and is generally part of escalating trade tensions between the U.S. and Chinese governments. The bill essentially blocks biotech and pharmaceutical companies who do business with certain Chinese biomanufacturing companies from receiving any future funding from the U.S. government, or, as framed by BIO, the bill would, “effectively prohibit Chinese biotech companies from doing business in the U.S.”

That prohibition would create severe headaches in the short term, as a BIO survey of 124 biopharma companies found that “79% have at least one contract or product with a China-based or China-owned CDMO/CMO.”

Notably for Massachusetts, one of the Chinese companies at the center of this debate is WuXi Apptech and its sister company WuXi Biologics, which has a major presence in Worcester and last year received $1 million in tax incentives from the Healey-Driscoll administration. The two WuXi companies manufacture 19 drugs approved in the U.S., including Vertex’s groundbreaking Trikafta treatment for Cystic Fibrosis.

The BIO survey data helped secure an eight-year grace period in the House version of the BIOSECURE Act, which would give U.S. biopharma companies until 2032 to come into compliance. Yet the challenge of finding new manufacturing homes for such an enormous percentage of U.S. biotech products is immense, and presents huge opportunities for Massachusetts.

Impact on the region    

Even before the BIOSECURE Act began to make waves on Capitol Hill, the Commonwealth and the industry were taking steps to grow biomanufacturing capabilities locally. Life science leaders such as Abbvie, Moderna, Bristol Myers Squibb, and Ultragenyx, already have major biomanufacturing presences in the state, and a number of local colleges, including MassBay Community College and Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), have developed programs to train workers and enhance the region’s biomanufacturing talent pool. 

But the BIOSECURE Act could drive a new level of interest in biomanufacturing locally, extending the economic impact of the biotech sector further out from the Kendall Square/Seaport core. In particular, a renewed push for biomanufacturing could be a boon to the local commercial real estate sector at a time of oversupply in the lab space market. Rob Weisman, in Boston Globe article from July of 2023, noted that biotechs are “now embracing the idea [of biomanufacturing locally] and scouting for their own sites” in Massachusetts.

So, where will they go? Opportunities abound for biotech companies looking to bring their manufacturing capabilities within an easy drive of their research & development arms. Davis last year acquired a 122,000 square foot cGMP production facility in Smithfield, RI that offers another potential 175,000 square foot expansion. Berkeley Investments has received approvals for a 203,000 square foot biomanufacturing facility in Billerica. And King Street Properties announced last month that they will soon break ground on a new 210,000 square foot biomanufacturing at Devens.

What’s Next?   

The BIOSECURE Act is awaiting floor votes in both the U.S. House and Senate. Given that it enjoys uniquely strong bipartisan support (it advanced on an 11-1 vote from the Senate and a 40-1 vote from the House), some version of the bill is expected to pass in the near term.

What passage of the BIOSECURE Act might mean for WuXi’s Massachusetts presence (and its state tax credits) is uncertain, but the potential long-term benefits for the region are clear. We have the talent, the pipeline, and the real estate to onshore this critical biomanufacturing capability.


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