A 27,464-square-foot laboratory just off Oracle Road in Oro Valley has been purchased by the University of Arizona, which expects it to house biotechnology research and incubator space.

Sanofi-aventis, the pharmaceutical company that opened a new, $60 million research center on Oro Valley's Innovation Drive last year, is selling the 1580 Hanley Boulevard building for $3.05 million. The Arizona Board of Regents approved the purchase at its Thursday meeting in Flagstaff.

Bob Davis, an industrial real estate specialist at Grubb & Ellis who helped to broker the deal, said the UA plans to use the space to expand its research opportunities, as well as provide incubator/accelerator opportunities for new start-up ventures.

"This is an exciting opportunity for the UA, for Oro Valley and for the other research leaders in Oro Valley," Davis said. "This is just one more step in creating critical mass in Innovation Park, which holds tremendous opportunity as one of Arizona's leading biotech corridors."

The building sits on approximately 4.6 acres. Slightly less than half was used for state-of-the-art research and development by sanofi-aventis and its predecessors for nearly 20 years. The remaining 2.5 acres along Oracle Road will be available for further development.

The first tenant of the still-unnamed facility is a new drug discovery and development center focused on research of early-stage molecular probes, which should lead to "accelerated translation into effective, disease-modifying drugs," according to a statement by UA officials.

"The most exciting new component of this building is that it will provide a space for our researchers in medicinal chemistry, pharmacy and cancer therapy working next door to start-up companies," said UA Provost Meredith Hay. "It will significantly enhance our capability to have our research discoveries commercialized and delivered to the marketplace."

Davis said the university is getting an extraordinary value.

"It will be worth 10 times that much to the UA in the future," Davis said. "The UA saw that they will get $25 million worth of equipment for the cost of an empty shell."

The UA is paying just over $100 a foot, which Davis described as "about the cost of constructing a shell of that size and that caliber. But it was full, completely, with all the laboratory infrastructure, air handling, mechanical equipment, plumbing, hoods, sinks and benches, kept in working order and under certification, and virtually 'on.' That can cost between $500 and $1,000 a foot when put in new."

The former sanofi-aventis lab "has more oomph than an academic lab," Davis said. "There are more than 40 fume hoods for chemistry, and tons of sinks and benches for biology. It's been so well taken care of."

Federal grant funds are being used to make the acquisition, Davis said. A "certain part" of a National Institutes of Health grant is intended for administration and facilities, and UA is "applying those to buy this building and run it.

"This just happened to come up at a time when they had grants that had to be positioned, and they could save a lot of money by going into a place where a lab existed," Davis said. "It really worked out for science, for the university, for Oro Valley and for sanofi-aventis. It's one of those classic win-wins."

Sanofi-aventis moved into its new building a year ago. It first occupied the Hanley Boulevard space in 1992. Sanofi-aventis also leased space at 1600 Hanley; that property, largely used for offices, is not part of this transaction and is for lease.


"This supports the town's strategic plan and our efforts to bring high-tech, high-quality jobs to the community. Sanofi-aventis and Ventana/Roche created tremendous momentum and we're honored to have the University of Arizona in Oro Valley. It's great to work together with such exceptional partners to make things happen."

— Oro Valley Town Councilman Barry Gillaspie


"Sanofi-aventis is very pleased that the University of Arizona is purchasing our reseach and development facility," said Beth Koch, site director for sanofi-aventis in Oro Valley. "It's continuing the site's legacy serving as a hub, an area of drug discovery research for Oro Valley. We look forward to continued collaboration opportunities that may be created by having this incubator space right here in Oro Valley."

— Beth Koch, site director for sanofi-aventis


"I want to thank all of the partners who helped bring the University to Oro Valley. We are honored to welcome the UA here and the incredible work that they are doing in the biotech research field. We are excited about the great things that will come out of this."

— Oro Valley Mayor Satish Hiremath


(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.