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

Serono also unveiled a $100,000 biotechnology vocationaltraining initiative, to be jointly funded by the company and thestate.

"Developing an appropriately skilled work force is a keycomponent to the supportive environment we're trying tocreate for the growth of biotechnology in Massachusetts," saidGov. William Weld at a ceremony announcing the deal. The firstof two training sessions started Sunday at the MinutemanTechnical High School in Lexington, Mass., which willadminister and staff the teaching curriculum. TheCommonwealth of Massachusetts is providing $52,000 ineducational grants, with Serono adding matching funds inexcess of $60,000.

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

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

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

Purchase and renovation will start later this month to converttwo large office-warehouse structures on a major commercial street here intopharmaceutical 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, tosupply IL-6 ongoing worldwide Phase I/II clinical trials. IL-6,a potential treatment for blood platelet deficiency, will beproduced in commercial-grade quantities to help meet futuredemand.

The two new buildings will add 105,000 square feet of space,and be equipped to meet FDA's GMP standards by the end of1994. A fourth structure will house R&D labs, Cella said.Randolph is 10 miles south of Boston.

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

-- David N. Leff Science Editor

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

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