Pharmaceutical Industry Spurs Bioscience Building Boom

In recent years, cities and universities across the New England region have participated in a dramatic real estate boom fueled by the healthcare, pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, as well as research universities.

“Pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer are increasingly concentrating research and development in a handful of cities known as ‘bioscience clusters’ that are rich with universities and competitors,” explained an article in The Wall Street Journal. “The trend is a sign that companies are reaching for new – and costly – ways to bolster their research efforts at a time their pipelines of blockbuster drugs are running dry.”

In Cambridge, Mass., The New York Times estimated that 2 million square feet of space was being renovated or considered for construction in 2013. “An additional 1.4 million new square feet is committed, and more is expected elsewhere in this city of 106,000 located directly across the Charles River from the city of Boston,” the Times reported. “If it all gets built, the new investment in Cambridge will come close to $2 billion.”

Since 2010, new buildings have been constructed for Pfizer, Novartis, Biogen, Millennium, and the David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) campus, according to the Times. “Another boost is coming from area hospitals,” reported the newspaper, which cited five Harvard-affiliated hospitals, the Harvard Medical School, and Mass General.

Other notable projects around the country include the New England Bio Labs in Ipswich, Massachusetts; Abbott Labs, Worcester, Massachusetts; Jackson Labs in Bar Harbor, Maine, and at the University of Connecticut; Bayer Pharmaceutical Corporation, Milford, Connecticut; Parker H. Petit Science Center Laboratories at Georgia State University in Atlanta; Vertex Pharmaceuticals, Cambridge; and Boston University Vivariums. Parker E. Petit Science Center Image 1

Among the specialized facilities included in these research centers are animal laboratories where walls, floors and ceilings must be kept in a neutral, sterile environment to prevent bacteria or other micro-organisms from affecting trials.

Seamless wall, floor and ceiling systems are recommended in published guidelines for the design of animal laboratory facilities both in Canada and the U.S. Specific recommendations are included in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) publication, Design Requirements Manual (DRM) for Biomedical Laboratories and Animal Research Facilities, as well as guidelines published by The Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC).

A preference for seamless wall, floor and ceiling systems is also cited in the National Research Council’s The Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals, which specifies that ceilings and floors should be “smooth, moisture-resistant, nonabsorbent and resistant to damage from impact.” An excerpt from that document emphasizes:

Durable, moisture-proof, fire-resistant, seamless materials are most desirable for interior surfaces. Surfaces should be highly resistant to the effects of cleaning agents, scrubbing, high-pressure sprays, and impact.

“You can’t have bacteria or anything in these spaces that is going to affect the outcome of the test protocol,” explained Greg Pope, Tnemec coating consultant with The Righter Group. “When you’re spending millions of dollars on pharmaceutical trials, a sterile environment is critical.”

More than 2 million square feet of spray-applied or fiberglass-reinforced mat lay-up epoxy wall coating systems from Tnemec have been applied at sterile animal laboratories, vivariums, pharmaceutical and medical facilities across the U.S. and Canada, according to Pope. Fiberglass mat-reinforced coating systems are typically specified for holding rooms and high-risk, animal-exposed areas, while non-reinforced coating systems are used for interior overhead drywall and remaining wall areas.

The Series 273 Stranlok® ML (Mat Layup) system requires placing a fiberglass-reinforcing mat into a bedding coat of polyamine epoxy while it is still wet. Broad knives, trowels and wallpaper brushes are used to smooth the fiberglass mat and eliminate air pockets.

After curing, a second epoxy coat is applied, followed by a finish coat of Series 1081 Endura-Shield, a waterborne acrylic polyurethane, which features low-VOC content, low odor and a semi-gloss finish in off-white colors.

Common substrates where the coating system is applied include high-impact drywall, cement board, concrete masonry units (CMUs) and poured or precast concrete. Fiberglass-reinforced coating systems enhance the integrity of the substrate to which they’re applied, providing superior resistance to impact, thermal shock caused by daily high-pressure steam cleaning, and to detergents and disinfectants used to sanitize surface areas.

Fiberglass-reinforced coating systems create a seamless, monolithic surface, unlike tile and fiberglass-reinforced panels (FRP) that require grout lines, anchor points and seams where dirt can accumulate and bacteria can grow. These areas of penetration resist disinfection and create pathways to spaces behind the wall for microorganisms and insects to infiltrate.

“This has been the preferred wall system for many of these research and development centers, and animal vivariums, throughout the New England states,” Pope observed.

Floors in cage wash down rooms are typically coated with a polyurethane modified concrete mortar designed to perform under extreme temperature changes, followed by a clear novolac epoxy and a topcoat of extremely hard clear urethane for increased abrasion and chemical resistance. Seamless resinous epoxy flooring with an integral cove base is used in facilities that are subject to abuse, frequent cleaning, and continuous movement of cages and equipment.

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