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Alexandria’s Dan Ryan Discusses Evolution Of Life Science Cluster And Coming Tech Impact

The shift from stand-alone facilities to a highly amenitized, campus-style work environment goes hand-in-hand with movement of major biotech and life science companies into clusters in New York, Boston, San Francisco and San Diego, according to Alexandria Real Estate Equities' Dan J. Ryan.

Event space at Campus Pointe by Alexandria hosts gatherings of scientists from throughout the life science cluster.

Ryan said the movement to multi-tenant campuses is an important change he has witnessed in his career as a developer of life science real estate. This cluster environment initiated community-building that has facilitated collaborations of intelligence, computational power and brain power among research institutions.

He said Alexandria listened when the life science community expressed interest in using hospitality-type features to build community within the cluster. But it was Ryan’s forward-thinking ideas that determined how best to blend hospitality features with the workplace environment to connect members of the cluster community through a mix of amenities.

Celebrity chef Brian Malarkey, right, and his business partner, Christopher Puffer, left, present Alexandria Real Estate's Dan Ryan with ULI San Diego-Tijuana's 2017 James F. Sallis Visionary Award.

As Alexandria Real Estate Equities executive vice president and San Diego regional market director Ryan has been a major player in the evolution of life science and biotech real estate to collaborative, work-play campuses that support research and development efforts while offering users amenities that enhance social interaction and collaboration with peers and provide opportunities to engage in healthy activities.

He was honored last week with the Urban Land Institute San Diego-Tijuana 2017 James F. Sallis Visionary Award. This award recognizes his innovation in design, leadership in sustainability and passion for community-building throughout his development career.

Since joining the Alexandria team in 2010, Ryan has increased Alexandria’s San Diego footprint from 1.6M SF to 4.2M SF of office/laboratory space, and in the process created conditions that strengthen the region’s innovation economy, help achieve climate action goals and promote resource-efficient and healthy business practices.

Farmer & The Seahorse restaurant at Alexandria at Torrey Pines' life science campus

Two of his signature projects, The Alexandria at Torrey Pines and Campus Pointe by Alexandria at University Town Center, demonstrate Ryan’s attention to detail, artistry and sustainability and his knack for recycling real estate assets to their highest and best use.

Ryan repositioned a newspaper print house to create The Alexandria at Torrey Pines, creating a unique, amenity-rich destination for San Diego’s life science and biotech communities that also provides a community theater and event space.

The campus offers indoor and outdoor gathering places for socializing that include celebrity chef Brian Malarkey’s popular Farmer & The Seahorse, as well as a fully equipped EXOS fitness center, complete with a full-size basketball court and group fitness classes.

This organic garden at Campus Pointe by Alexandria produces 800 pounds of organic produce monthly.

In creating Campus Pointe, Ryan transformed a tired commercial office building into California’s first LEED Platinum Core and Shell building. The 24-acre campus, which is now home to Eli Lilly and Co., Celegene and other innovative tenants, was the San Diego Architectural Foundation’s pick for the 2016 Orchid award, which recognizes outstanding architecture.

Designed by Gensler, the project created an interactive green oasis among a sea of asphalt and glass that includes outstanding landscape architecture, a green roof, outdoor seating and a vegetable garden that produces 800 pounds of organic produce a month for another Malarkey restaurant, Green Acre.

EXOS Fitness Center at Campus Pointe by Alexandria.

The initial Campus Pointe development at 10300 Campus Point Drive, a two-story, 450K SF project that got underway in 2007, presented challenges that included an unproven location and an enormous footprint, making it difficult to create a cohesive, connected community.

Ryan overcame the building's sprawling size by creating strategically placed collision spaces designed to spur engagement of tenants’ employees and the broader San Diego life science community to converge, exchange ideas and advance knowledge.

This Alexandria campus is known for connecting tenants with organizations that can assist with lobbying for research funding, activating the life science community within San Diego and designing visually stimulating and creatively amenitized buildings. This includes Lilly’s new 305K SF research facility at 10290 Campus Point Drive, which was completed in late 2016.

Ryan’s team also completed two projects in 2016: a new three-story, 62K SF, build-to-suit headquarters for Otonomy, a biotech and biopharmaceuticals firm at 4796 Executive Drive, and Building 6 on the Illumina research campus, which will house a combination of research and manufacturing of reagents for Illumina’s genome-sequencing machines.

Dan Ryan's team completed development of the new Lilly Biotechnology Center at the Campus Pointe by Alexandria in Campus Pointe by Alexandria.

“We’re seeing a greater overlap between life sciences and tech, with life science companies recruiting software and hardware developers,” Ryan said.

The decreasing cost of genome sequencing has doubled the amount of genetic data produced, providing better metrics to guide research efforts, Ryan said. Meanwhile, the tech sector is bringing a higher level of sophistication to interpreting trends to accelerate research discovery.

As a result, hybrid tech-life science companies are emerging in clusters, such as the 388K SF IBM Watson Health Global Headquarters at 74/125 Binney part of Alexandria Center at Kendall Square in Cambridge's Kendall Square innovation district, the top life science cluster submarket in the nation.

Alexandria Real Estate completed Building 6 on the Illumina research campus in late 2016.

In San Diego, Ryan said the city has generally been supportive of Alexandria's projects, providing zoning exceptions to allow a mix of uses on campus projects. He said antiquated land-use codes bar inclusion of retail amenities in areas zoned for life science facilities.

He also noted severe barriers to developing projects in the cluster are the 30-foot height restriction imposed by the California Coastal Commission and the city’s 1.34 FAR density restriction due to the cluster's location in the "accident potential zone" and proximity to the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.