RANDOLPH, Mass. -- With $35 million from the Bank of Boston, plus at least $5 million of its own funds, Ares-Serono Inc. is about to expand its biotechnology presence in Massachusetts. In a joint announcement on Tuesday, the pharmaceutical company and the financial institution reported signing a letter of intent to bankroll a building program here. It will step up manufacture of two recombinant pharmaceuticals, interleukin- 6 and Saizen, a human growth hormone.

Serono also unveiled a $100,000 biotechnology vocational training initiative, to be jointly funded by the company and the state.

"Developing an appropriately skilled work force is a key component to the supportive environment we're trying to create for the growth of biotechnology in Massachusetts," said Gov. William Weld at a ceremony announcing the deal. The first of two training sessions started Sunday at the Minuteman Technical High School in Lexington, Mass., which will administer and staff the teaching curriculum. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is providing $52,000 in educational grants, with Serono adding matching funds in excess of $60,000.

Training will cover GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices), bioprocessing, protein purification, cell culture, product isolation and clean-room practice, Gina Cella, Serono's director of corporate communications, told BioWorld.

Other biotechnology companies, she said, can buy into the curriculum for their own employees.

Cella said the letter of intent with the bank should become a done deal by the end of June.

Purchase and renovation will start later this month to convert two large office- warehouse structures on a major commercial street here into pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities for IL-6 and Seizen. The former drug is already in production in a third, neighboring, 55,000-square-foot building, owned by Serono, to supply IL-6 ongoing worldwide Phase I/II clinical trials. IL-6, a potential treatment for blood platelet deficiency, will be produced in commercial-grade quantities to help meet future demand.

The two new buildings will add 105,000 square feet of space, and be equipped to meet FDA's GMP standards by the end of 1994. A fourth structure will house R&D labs, Cella said. Randolph is 10 miles south of Boston.

Saizen, a recombinant growth hormone produced in mammalian (Chinese hamster ovary) cells rather than bacteria, is the company's only recombinant product on the market. It accounted for some 13 percent of Serono's worldwide sales of $752.8 million in 1992. Saizen is now available in more than 40 countries, and FDA approval is pending.

-- David N. Leff Science Editor

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.