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WALPOLE, MA-German pharmaceutical conglomerate Bayer AG has broken ground on a $100 million expansion of its Walpole facility that will add approximately 116,000 sf of manufacturing and warehouse space to its existing 400,000 sf Walpole operation.

Susan Yarin, director of global communications for the diagnostic and diabetics care division of Bayer HealthCare, tells GlobeSt.com that the expansion, which should be completed by 2008, will increase the capacity of the company’s medical diagnostics division by 25%.

“One of the reasons we’re expanding is to meet the growing demand for our products,” she says, adding that the plant is currently operating at full capacity. The expansion, which is expected to be completed in the next 18 to 24 months, will allow the company to increase production of its current products and finished goods and provide space for raw material storage and final product packaging, she notes. At least 70 jobs will be added as a result of the expansion.

Bayer Healthcare also leases 100,000 sf of lab and office space for its Diagnostic Division at 2 Edgewater Dr. in Norwood and has a third facility at Norwood Park South in Norwood.

Bayer HealthCare’s expansion marks the start of a suburban boom in the life science industry that includes the recent announcement by Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. that it will build a 750,000 sf manufacturing facility in Devens that will bring more than 500 jobs to the area in the next five years.

Last year, Charles River Laboratories International paid $27.5 million for a 400,000 sf building in Shrewsbury in an expansion of its preclinical facilities. The firm also is expected to open an additional 250,000-sf building in Shrewsbury early next year. The combined facility will house approximately 800 employees.

Both Genzyme and Boston Scientific also have expanded their suburban biotech operations in the last two years as the demand for new life science products continues to increase.

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