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MAPLE GROVE, MN-After winning endorsement for its new drug-coated stent from an important advisory panel, Boston Scientific will go ahead with plans to build a new 120,000-sf research and development facility at its divisional headquarters campus here.

The Natick, MA-based company will also pursue a far faster ramp up of its Twin Cities operations than was previously expected.

Boston Scientific will add “in the ballpark” of 2,000 jobs over the next two to three years at its Twin Cities operations, and will go ahead with plans to build a new research and development facility at its campus here, says Jim Tobin, the company’s CEO. That’s more than twice as many jobs for this area than the company earlier indicated it might add. Tobin says his company is set to go on the new R&D plant “as soon as we get the permits.”

Company officials have plans for a 120,000-sf R&D facility at its local campus, says Al Madsen, city administrator for Maple Grove. The R&D building is expected to cost $12 million and take two years to build, but outfitting it with clean rooms and scientific equipment could double or triple that amount, Madsen says.

The company is in the midst of adding a total of 40,000 sf to its two existing local buildings, and Madsen expects that project to be completed in the next three to four months.

The company’s Taxus drug-coated stent, which is intended to keep cleaned-out arteries from clogging up, won unanimous approval from the nine members of a circulatory system devices panel that advises the US Food and Drug Administration. Stents are tiny metal mesh tubes that prop open arteries after the arteries are cleaned out by angioplasty. The drug coating helps prevent tissue growth from re-clogging the artery, a common problem with bare metal stents.

All that is left before Boston Scientific’s device can be sold in the US is for the full agency to approve it—-a decision that is expected by analysts sometime in the first quarter of 2004. The full FDA board almost always takes its panels’ advice, says Phil Nalbone, a securities analyst with RBC Market in San Francisco.

In July, Boston Scientific said it would hire 1,200 scientists and skilled manufacturing workers in Minnesota and Ireland and add new facilities in both locations. At that time, the company said it had 2,600 employees in the Twin Cities-—1,850 in Maple Grove and 750 in Plymouth. Now it appears the company has far more aggressive expansion plans.

The company may get city and state help with its expansion. Several months ago, Boston Scientific talked with the Minnesota Department of Trade and Economic Development about job training support, and has not had any subsequent discussions, says Kit Borgman, a spokeswoman for the department. Madsen went on to say his city is willing to discuss a variety of public aid for the expansion, including road improvements and tax increment financing.

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