In the wake of a notable IPO this year and a raft of partnership deals, Aduro Biotech (Nasdaq: ADRO) has snapped up full occupancy rights to a new four-story life sciences building just completed by Wareham Development at its 18-acre Aquatic Park Center in Berkeley.
Aduro’s 84 employees are now packed into 25,000 square feet in a nearby building on Bancroft Way in Berkeley, and the company plans to add another 20 staffers by the end of the year, says CEO Stephen Isaacs. Under its new 12-year lease agreement beginning in June, Aduro will spread out into more than 56,000 square feet of office and laboratory space at 740 Heinz Avenue—about half the building.
The entire Wareham building is fully committed to Aduro, though—at least until mid-2016. Aduro has until July to decide whether to exercise its option to take over the remaining space in the new 110,000-square-foot structure. That expansion would take place in two phases, in 2017 and 2018. Aduro can also negotiate terms to extend its lease for another two five-year periods.
Isaacs says he wants to continue keeping Aduro’s whole staff in the same building. The interior spaces will be built out to promote interactions among employees from different departments, he says.
“Our intent is to occupy the entire building,” Isaacs says. Although fortunes in the cutting-edge biotechnology field can rise and fall, he says, Aduro has had a great year. “We want to anticipate success and be prepared to house that success.”
Aduro is pinning its hopes on an array of drug development projects based on its work in cancer immunotherapies. The company rode on the promise of those programs to raise $119 million in an IPO in April. Aduro’s shares quickly surged from their initial price of $17 to as much as $42, though trades have recently settled down to a range above $20.
The most advanced of Aduro’s experimental therapies, nicknamed LADD, use bio-engineered versions of bacteria called Listeria monocytogenes to prompt the immune system to destroy cancer cells. Isaacs says he expects that two of Aduro’s in-house LADD therapies will advance into late-stage clinical trials—one in pancreatic cancer, and one in mesothelioma.
In addition, Aduro is exploring a second approach to cancer immunotherapy in a partnership with Novartis. Aduro’s small molecules called cyclic dinucleotides, or CDNs, stimulate a receptor in immune system cells called STING—short for “stimulator of interferon genes.” Novartis and Aduro are preparing for an early stage safety and dose escalation trial next year for one of these cyclic dinucleotides as a potential cancer treatment.
Aduro’s new corporate home is part of Wareham’s campus-like complex of 17 buildings that house other life sciences companies including Siemens Diagnostics, XOMA, Dynavax Technologies, CMC Biologics, and Caribou Biosciences. Aduro’s neighbors will also include the QB3-East Bay Innovation Center, an incubator that rents lab space to startup companies and researchers.
Isaacs says the company will occupy the third and fourth floors of the Heinz Avenue building first, and the roomier digs will make it possible to create a few more private offices than Aduro has now. But he wants to make sure that top executives are not sequestered away in an isolated zone “where others fear to tread.”
However, he adds, that kind of fear might never arise at Aduro anyway, no matter how the offices are arranged.
“We’re not very scary executives,” Isaacs says.