Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Zymergen Collapse Should Free Up Space in Emeryville

 By David Gross

Synthetic "biofacturing" company Zymergen announced yesterday it would not generate meaningful revenue until 2023, a big delay from the second half of this year as previously announced.  Today the stock is down nearly 80% and CEO and Founder Josh Hoffman is out, replaced by former Illumina CEO Jay Flatley.  With just six quarters of cash in the bank, the company is going to be doing everything it can to trim expenses.  One of those expenses is a 303,000 square foot lease it signed in 2019 at 5300 Chiron Way in Emeryville, a building owned by BioMed Realty.

The Berkeley/Emeryville submarket has become a hub for synthetic bio, building off of tech transfer from UC Berkeley.  The neighborhood is essentially full, with prospective tenants holding out for BioMed's 910,000 square foot expansion around the Chiron Way building Zymergen leased.   Zymergen's plan has been to vacate its existing 252,000 square feet nearby on Horton Street, and move into the redeveloped Chiron Way property.   While specific plans haven't been announced, it would be highly unusual for the company not to shop around the space for subtenants given its cash position.  

Zymergen's exact lease rates on the building were never released, but about a mile away, Berkeley-based Gritstone bio paid $58.20 per foot initial base rent for a lease that started in 2019, when Zymergen signed its lease.  Additionally, Agenus paid $63 per foot for a 83,620 square foot lease last year in Berkeley, the same price paid by Perfect Day last year when it sublet 112,088 square feet nearby.   Other companies in the submarket include Jennifer Doudna's Caribou Biosciences, which recently went public, and ag tech startup Pivot Bio, which raised over $400 million last month in one of the largest life sciences venture rounds this year.  

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