Published 8/21/19 in the Baltimore Business Journal

A Montgomery County research enterprise is seeking proposals from prospective tenants to lease a manufacturing facility on the Interstate 270 corridor, where there is a dearth of lab space despite a fast-growing biotech industry demanding more of it.

The Institute for Bioscience and Biotechnology Research, a venture of the University of Maryland and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, has issued a request for proposals for 9,100 square feet on its Rockville campus at 9600 Gudelsky Drive.

The site encompasses a Good Manufacturing Practice, or GMP, suite that complies with Food and Drug Administration requirements. It also includes lab space, support areas and offices, according to a press release. The facility is designed for the manufacturing of clinical biological material — matter from living organisms rather than chemicals that make pharmaceutical products, for instance — as well as developmental research.

“The GMP facility is an attractive asset located in the BioHealth Capital region for manufacturing cell-based therapies (CAR-T) and other biologics,” said Viqar Aslam, director of business development and strategy for IBBR, in a statement to the Washington Business Journal. “We look forward to working with an industry partner with utilization of the space for its intended purpose.”

There’s heightened demand for this type of space in Montgomery County, where record-low vacancy rates mark the landscape. The county has an inventory of 9.26 million square feet of life science space, of which only 4.1% is vacant, with a triple net average annual rent of $29.86 per square foot, according to Cushman & Wakefield’s Life Science Report for 2018 to 2019.

That demand was highlighted this year, when Baltimore gene therapy provider Paragon Bioservices bought half of Novavax’s manufacturing business to set up shop in Montgomery County, and as other companies from outside of Greater Washington — from London-based Autolus Therapeutics to Los Angeles-based Kite Pharma — locate their headquarters here.

Aslam declined to disclose the expected rental rates for this IBBR facility, but said that would be determined based on any proposed capital improvements to the facility, the company’s projected economic impact and any research collaboration with IBBR and the university, among other factors.

The space near Shady Grove and Darnestown roads was conceived for pilot scale manufacturing, conducted on a small scale prior to clinical trials, as well as for training and education programs to support the state’s biotech corridor, according to Aslam. It wasn’t initially intended to be leased out.

It’s also not the first time IBBR has sought a tenant. The organization previously issued an RFP in March 2016.

Now, IBBR plans to evaluate offers based on the proposed use of the facility, and the type of lease structure and rental rates applicants propose, among other criteria. A total lease term wouldn’t exceed 10 years including renewals.

IBBR said it will review RFP responses “until a preferable and credible response is identified” before Sept. 30. Those proposals should be submitted electronically.