Biotech Startup GlycoFi Moves Out of Centerra Incubator

Valley News Business Writer
Published: 5/15/2016 1:19:31 AM
Modified: 5/15/2016 1:19:31 AM

Lebanon — One of the biggest tenants at the Dartmouth Regional Technology Center at Centerra Resource Park has left the building.

GlycoFi, the biotech startup founded by a two Dartmouth College engineering professors that was sold to pharma giant Merck for $400 million in cash in 2006, has moved out of its offices and laboratory at the DRTC, a spokesperson for Merck confirmed.

A “select number” of GlycoFi employees have transferred to other Merck research labs in Boston, Kenilworth, N.J., and West Point, Pa., the spokesperson said via email in response to an inquiry. The spokesperson declined to specify the number of employees who transferred, other than to say that “the vast majority of employees have chosen to relocate to other Merck facilities.”

At one time, GlycoFi employed about 45 people at its Lebanon facility. The company occupied more than 20,000 square feet in the 61,000-square-foot DRTC building.

“This action is consistent with the global initiative Merck announced in 2013 to sharpen our commercial and R&D focus to enable the company to better target its resources behind those opportunities that have the potential to deliver the greatest return on investment,” according to a Merck statement.

The vacancy leaves DRTC with a major vacancy to fill. The incubator, which is home to 16 companies, is jointly operated by Dartmouth College, the Grafton County Economic Development Council and the North Country Council.

GlycoFi pioneered genetic engineering technology that uses yeast cells to generate human proteins for the treatment of anemia and other autoimmune diseases. The technology was considered a breakthrough because proteins had typically been produced by mammalian cells.

Merck said at the time it bought GlycoFi that the startup would help it to become a “significant player” in the field of “biologics,” which are drugs developed through genetic engineering, as opposed the traditional method of chemical compound engineering.

GlycoFi was co-founded by Thayer School of Engineering professors Tillman Gerngross and Charles Hutchinson in 2000. Gerngross is also now associate provost of Dartmouth’s Office of Entrepreneurship and Technology Transfer, which shepherds the commercialization of technology and intellectual property developed by Dartmouth faculty, students and staff. Hutchinson is now an emeritus professor and dean at Thayer.

The 2006 sale of GlycoFi rocked the biotech community and generated headlines due to its $400 million price tag, which, according to the National Venture Capital Association, was the third-highest price ever paid for a private biotech company. Investors included Hanover-based Borealis Ventures and Boston Millennia Partners, which said the sale generated a tenfold return on its capital.

But following the high-profile sale, GlycoFi’s public profile declined sharply with news about the company and its activities falling nearly silent.

Merck’s large 2013 layoff announcement and restructuring in research and development activities led to whispers that Gerngross was interested in reacquiring GlycoFi from Merck and merging the operation with his other Lebanon biotech startup, Adimab, which also employs yeast cells to produce human proteins.

Merck did not respond to a question about whether Gerngross expressed an interest to reacquire GlycoFi.

Gerngross declined to comment.

 

John Lippman can be reached at 603-727-3219 or jlippman@vnews.com.




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