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Biotech Firm Cancels Rockville HQ Plans, Is Immediately Replaced

A rendering of the now-scrapped plans for the U.S. headquarters for Autolus in Rockville

A London biotech company has backed out of plans to establish a U.S. headquarters in Rockville, Maryland, but with the life sciences market still red hot, the developer has already landed another tenant to fill the new building. 

Autolus Therapeutics announced Monday its full-building, 85K SF lease with Alexandria Real Estate Equities at the 9950 Medical Center Drive development has been mutually terminated. 

The company announced the lease signing in January 2019, and it said it planned to create 170 jobs and invest $28M in the build-to-suit deal for its U.S. headquarters in Rockville. In Monday's announcement, it said the termination triggered a cash payment to Autolus and ends the company's obligations under the lease. It also said it plans to expand its operations in the U.K. 

Also Monday, TCR² Therapeutics Inc. announced it signed an 85K SF lease for the same building at 9950 Medical Center Drive. The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company said the facility will accelerate its manufacturing of cell therapies for cancer patients.

JLL's Kyle Corsini and Tucker Hanson represented TCR² in the deal, while JLL's Pete Briskman and Joe Judge represented Autolus in its deal, according to a spokesperson.

The facility will be the first location in the D.C. area for TCR², a spokesperson told Bisnow. The 15-year lease will begin May 1 with a base rent of $39.78 per SF, which is subject to annual increases of 2% through 2024 and 3% after that, the company said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing. It also said TCR² paid $3.75M upon the lease signing, and the landlord committed to paying $140 per SF in tenant improvements. 

The spokesperson said that the facility is TCR²'s first step in building a regional network to supply cancer patients with therapies, and it chose Rockville because it is "in an optimal location on the East Coast and near a viable, international airport."

“Leasing an existing manufacturing footprint is a substantial milestone for TCR², saving us valuable time and capital so that we can be ready for commercial production in 2023," TCR² Therapeutics CEO Garry Menzel said in a release. "Our new state-of-the-art facility will allow us to directly leverage our cell therapy process development expertise and control our end-to-end production supply chain."

Alexandria's ability to quickly backfill the space with another tenant shows the continued strength of Montgomery County's I-270 life sciences market. The pandemic increased demand for an already-hot market, as several companies that are developing vaccines have expanded their footprints.