Ultragenyx Celebrates New Research Facility, 2 Years Later Than Planned

Novato-based Ultragenyx on Thursday afternoon held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the opening of its state-of-the-art research facility, located at 32 Leveroni Court, in the Bel Marin Keys Industrial Park.

The ceremonial event and lab tour that followed was more than two years in the making — not because of construction delays, but because of the pandemic, noted John Pinion, chief quality operations officer and executive vice president, translational sciences.

The 20,000-square-foot lab facility, which was formerly a warehouse, was completed in December 2019, and has been operating continuously since then, he said.

In his remarks on Thursday, Ultragenyx founder and CEO Emil Kakkis recalled that when he started the company in 2010, he didn’t have enough money for Ultragenyx to have its own research building, so he leased space from the nearby Buck Institute on Research and Aging, paying between $30,000 and $40,000 a year.

“From there, we continued to build out further and further, but it became evident at some point in time that we needed to develop our own building and our own space,” Kakkis said. “Fortunately, with the success of the work everyone’s been doing at the company, we were able to build the financial strength required to actually take on a building and invest in it.” The purchase price is not publicly available, said Jeff Blake, senior director of corporate communications.

Kakkis also said Ultragenyx having its own research facility marks another step forward in the company’s work to develop novel treatments for rare genetic diseases.

“We are very pleased to see how much research has gone on, even during the pandemic, and how much this building has contributed already to the development of our pipeline,” Kakkis said.

Ultragenyx also continues to utilize research space at The Buck.

To date, Ultragenyx has three first-ever treatments for rare diseases that have been approved for pediatric and adult patients. They are called Crysvita, Dojolvi and Mepsevii.

The biopharmaceutical company, which currently has 32 employees working in the new research facility, has more than 1,100 employees around the globe. About half of them work in Novato.

The company’s additional U.S. locations outside of California are in Utah and Massachusetts; with global offices in Colombia, Argentina, Switzerland, England, Germany, Japan, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, according to Ultragenyx’s website.