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EDINBURGH-Launching an ambitious foray into Europe, California-based Alexandria Real Estate Equities Inc. has committed to a 1.4-million-sf biotechnology project here, partnering on a 100-acre swath envisioned as an international center for biotechnology. The mix of office, laboratory and ancillary uses in the newly branded Edinburgh BioQuarter will be kicked off by an 80,000-sf, multi-tenanted building later this year.

Scottish Development International, a government sponsored entity charged with boosting the country’s economic base, chose Alexandria due to its position as North America’s leading real estate investment trust dedicated to the life sciences market. Alexandria already has a presence in most of the US markets that Edinburgh hopes to compete against, including Cambridge, MA, San Francisco and North Carolina.

“Alexandria’s reputation for outstanding life science cluster development, combined with Scotland’s reputation for producing outstanding science, will act as a magnet for some of the world’s leading scientists, researchers and companies,” predicts SDI official Jack Perry. Alexandria owns and operates more than 11 million sf of office/laboratory properties in North America, and has another six million sf in various stages of construction. The latter category includes Mission Bay in San Francisco and East River Science Park in New York City.

“We look forward to applying our successful life science cluster business model to this effort to create a world-class destination of choice for the industry,” says Alexandria CEO Joel Marcus, who cited the nearby University of Edinburgh’s position as an academic global leader in biotechnology as one source of research talent.

Also, Edinburgh is opening an 870-bed teaching hospital featuring a clinical trials program, and the scientists behind the first cloned sheep, Dolly, are slated to open the $118-million Scottish Center for Regenerative Medicine in the Edinburgh BioQuarter.

Alexandria’s flagship center will incorporate state-of-the-art elements and proprietary products designed to foster a diverse life sciences environment, Marcus explains, including an “accelerator” process that bridges the gap between research and commercialization of products, and an “innovation center” that allows companies to work collaboratively. Completion is slated for 2009. Alexandria will also begin planning for the remaining commercial plots, including a second multi-tenant building for larger companies and a series of build-to-suit opportunities.

“The new campus will provide an environment in which our scientists can work with commercial partners to ensure that the ground-breaking research we undertake is put to the best possible use,” says professor John Savill, head of the University of Edinburgh’s College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine. Added Lorna Jack, familiar with Alexandria as SDI’s US representative, “companies looking to take a ‘bench to bedside’ approach to R&D have an added advantage with unlimited access to leading experts and research facilities across various disciplines.”

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