Pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly & Co. will establish a $700 million Lilly Institute for Genetic Medicine at 15 Necco St., an under-construction 12-story lab and office building fronting the Fort Point Channel.

It’s a major expansion into Boston for Indianapolis-based Lilly, which is one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies and has a market capitalization of nearly $230 billion.

Eli Lilly has a 47,000-square-foot outpost at 450 Kendall St. in Kendall Square, where it employs about 100 people. The Boston lab and office expansion follows Lilly’s acquisition of New York-based gene therapy firm Prevail Therapeutics in 2020. Lilly expects to move into the Necco Street site by 2024, and grow from 120 to 250 research biologists, chemists, data scientists, and others within five years.

“Establishing the Lilly Institute for Genetic Medicine will allow us to pair cutting-edge technologies with our deep biological expertise in several areas including neuroscience and diabetes,” said Andrew C. Adams, vice president of genetic medicine at Lilly and co-director of the Institute, in a statement. “Lilly will focus on medicines acting at the nucleic acid level to advance an entirely new class that target the root cause of diseases, an approach that is fundamentally different than medicines available today.”

The team at the Boston site will partner with researchers in New York, where Lilly expects to grow to 200 scientists, Lilly said.

The Necco Street site will also include a shared biotech space, modeled after Lilly’s Gateway Labs in San Francisco. That flexible lab space creates “opportunities for collaboration” with Lilly scientists and could house an additional 150 new jobs, the company said.

Construction is underway on the 12-story office and lab at 15 Necco St., which former GE CEO Jeff Immelt previously envisioned as a second building for the conglomerate’s “Innovation Point” world headquarters, joking that he wished the logo could be seen from outer space. Later, under the leadership of new CEO Larry Culp, GE said it would cut back on the planned two-building headquarters campus and reimburse $87 million to quasi-public agency MassDevelopment for incentives originally given to GE in its headquarters move from Connecticut.

The site is now being developed by Alexandria Real Estate Equities, among the largest developers of lab space in the region, and Newton-based National Development. The team bought the headquarters property in 2019 for $252 million, and later pursued a lab there.

Alexandria is rapidly expanding its local footprint in Boston outside of its Cambridge stronghold, and has plans for additional lab development in South Boston. Peter Moglia, Alexandria’s co-CEO and co-chief investment officer, said in a statement that 15 Necco St. is “designed to be a unique and inspiring facility.”

“We are thrilled to bring an anchor tenant to this unparalleled location in the Seaport, where we are pioneering a new life science submarket,” Moglia said.

Indeed, the stretch of former Gillette parking lots fronting the Fort Point Channel leading toward the Broadway MBTA station in South Boston has been of intense interest to developers in recent years. Related Beal is pitching a multi-building lab, office, and residential space on 6.5 acres between 15 Necco St. and Gillette’s world shaving headquarters, while biotech company CRISPR Therapeutics leased a lab at 105 W. First St. in July 2020.

By Catherine Carlock
Boston Globe
February 22, 2022

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