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Biotech Firm Plans to Double Footprint in San Diego Suburb

Ionis Pharmaceuticals’ Oceanside Project Arrives With U.S. Life Science Demand Rising Despite Tough Economy

Ionis Pharmaceuticals, based at this Carlsbad, California, property, is planning a much larger facility in nearby Oceanside in San Diego's North County region. (CoStar)

By Lou Hirsh CoStar News October 13, 2022 | 4:43 P.M. Ionis Pharmaceuticals plans to double its current real estate footprint with a new biotech manufacturing facility in Oceanside, California, among the latest signs of rising life science real estate demand in the San Diego region and other hubs of the fast-growing industry.

Ionis executives said this week the company entered into an agreement with San Diego-based developer Sudberry Properties to build and lease a planned chemistry development and manufacturing facility that would span approximately 217,000 square feet. That would more than double the size of Ionis’ current headquarters and development facility at 2855 Gazelle Court in nearby Carlsbad.

It was not clear whether the new facility, scheduled to be occupied by Ionis in 2025, would supplement or replace its Carlsbad facility. Ionis representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“Our new Oceanside campus will provide the capacity we need to support our growing pipeline, new technologies and chemistries,” CEO Brett Monia said in a statement. A company filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission this week did not disclose the exact address of the new Oceanside facility. Ionis has agreed to lease the building from Sudberry for 20 years, with two 10-year options to renew and a right of first offer to purchase the property.

The project was announced as a new report from brokerage Cushman & Wakefield said growth continued in biotech development and employment across the country despite headwinds hitting the larger economy this year. “Current projects under construction in the U.S. are expected to add 26.6 million square feet of lab space to existing inventory,” Cushman Research Manager Sandy Romero said in a statement. “These brand new, state-of-the-art facilities across major markets will provide a home for future talent and the next generation of life science innovations.”

The report said U.S. life science employment has doubled in the last 10 years, with average annual job growth of 6.6% well outpacing the 1.2% growth in total U.S. employment. Year-to-date through August, the U.S. had a total of 413,120 biotech job postings, up 28% from the year-earlier period and far outpacing the number of qualified hires.

Biotech companies and their landlords are competing to bring workers to new projects in the largest life science cluster regions, led by Boston, San Francisco and San Diego. The quest for space has extended the San Diego biotech cluster from central enclaves to the North County region, where firms including Thermo Fisher Scientific, Gillead Sciences and Genentech Pharmaceuticals have been expanding their presence in Carlsbad and Oceanside.

Biotech asking rents at the mid-point of 2022 were up more than 31% from a year earlier in San Diego, and the region has among the nation’s tightest biotech vacancy rates at 5.7%, Cushman & Wakefield reported.

Ionis Pharmaceuticals develops cardiovascular and neurological therapies derived from ribonucleic acid or RNA-based technologies. The company plans to begin manufacturing at the Oceanside location in mid-2026 but did not disclose the number of workers to be employed there.

The company said the facility would include advanced sustainability and environmental features and will generate 50% of its power from solar panels. It will have automated systems for material handling, emission controls and spill containment in production areas.

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