PEDA eyes life sciences company

Friday September 14, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- The Pittsfield Economic Development Authority may be bringing a project related to the life sciences industry to Pittsfield.

On Wednesday, PEDA’s board voted to give its executive committee permission to negotiate a lease with Nuclea Biotech nologies Inc. for space inside the quasi-public agency’s headquarters building at 81 Kellogg St.

PEDA is charged with developing the 52-acre William Stanley Business Park of the Berkshires, but unlike the park’s land, its 3,200-square foot headquarters building is located on a 3.1-acre parcel that is still owned by the General Electric Co.

Built in 1966, PEDA’s headquarters was known as "Building 45" when GE operated its power transformer facility on the current site of the business park. Because PEDA leases the building from GE, it is allowed to sublease space inside the structure with GE’s permission, said PEDA’s Executive Director Cory Thurston.

The board discussed the matter in executive session with Nuclea representatives before returning to open session to vote. Thurston said the project was tied to a "computer cluster" but provided no further details. Both Thurston and Nuclea President and CEO Patrick J. Muraca declined to discuss the proposal in detail because it is still in the preliminary stages.

"I can’t divulge exactly what we’re going to do," Muraca said. "We are hoping to plan to do something here at PEDA with the life sciences aspect of Nuclea.

"We’re still negotiating," he said. "It’s very preliminary."

Nuclea Biotechnologies, which has offices in Pittsfield and Worcester, develops and commercializes diagnostic tests for colon, breast, leukemia, lung and prostate cancer. In April, Nuclea entered into a research partnership with the Stratton Veteran’s Admin istration Med ical Center in Albany, N.Y.

In 2008, the state Legislature approved a $6.5 million earmark toward the construction of an incubator building for small startup life sciences companies at the Stanley Business Park. But PEDA has never received the funding. First, the state couldn’t find investors to back the bond. Then PEDA withdrew its proposal in February 2011, only to reapply two months later when the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center made additional funding available for fiscal 2013.

Thurston said PEDA has been pursuing the earmark in "an aggressive manner." But Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi, who is also a PEDA board member, said it will likely take a combination of state funding and private investment to get such a facility built.

He said PEDA’s decision to negotiate the leasing of space to Nuclea was a way to "kickoff this opportunity."

MLSC President and CEO Susan Windham-Bannister told PEDA board members earlier this year that the quasi-public agency should create linkages to local colleges and businesses, including Nuclea, to assess their interest in using an incubator building for training purposes. Nuclea is one of Berkshire County’s few life sciences companies.

PEDA members have also discussed the creation of a life sciences facility at the Williams Stanley Business Park with U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal, D-Springfield.

"He came to visit PEDA and we updated him," Thurston said.

To reach Tony Dobrowolski:
(413) 496-6224
On Twitter: @tonydobrow


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