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Prelude Therapeutics signs CRISP lease for future HQ

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Prelude Therapeutics Wilmington Delaware CRISP cancer

Cancer research firm Prelude Therapeutics recently signed a major lease to locate its future headquarters at the new Chestnut Run Innovation & Science Park (CRISP). | PHOTO COURTESY OF PRELUDE THERAPEUTICS

WILMINGTON – Cancer treatment research company Prelude Therapeutics has signed a major lease for its future headquarters at the Chestnut Run Innovation and Science Park (CRISP), the first new tenant at the former DuPont research and development campus recently acquired by MRA Group.

On Nov. 30, Prelude entered into a lease agreement for 81,000 square feet of office and lab space at the business park – about 10% of the total space to be redeveloped by Horsham, Pa.-based MRA under its plans – according to a securities filing by the public company. It intends to use the space as its future headquarters.

Chestnut Run Innovation & Science Park CRISP MRA Group Prelude Therapeutics Solenis DuPont

DuPont’s former Chestnut Run labs campus is being redeveloped into the multi-tenant Chestnut Run Innovation & Science Park, where Prelude will be its first major new tenant. | PHOTO COURTESY OF MRA GROUP 

The initial $33.8 million lease has a term of 13.5 years with three possible five-year extension options afterward, meaning it could make the site its long-term headquarters for nearly three decades if it so chooses. Prelude is also entitled to certain expansion rights at the business park.

In September, Prelude Therapeutics received $5.5 million in state taxpayer-backed grants to move to new, larger labs and more than double its workforce in the state.

Led by Kris Vaddi, a founding researcher at Incyte Corp. who now serves as Prelude’s CEO, the company has drawn increasing international attention for its work on small molecule inhibitors, a developing therapy that is more targeted in approach with fewer side effects than traditional cancer therapies like chemotherapy or radiation. It launched a successful initial public offering (IPO) in September 2020 and at one point held a market cap of more than $2 billion.

The company was unanimously approved for a $2.4 million lab space grant to fit out around 48,000 square feet of leased research and development labs at DuPont’s Experimental Station in Alapocas – it’s unclear if those funds will now transfer to the Chestnut Run space. The lease at smaller Delaware Innovation Space labs on the same Alapocas campus will expire next year after a recent extension, according to the company’s last quarterly report.

Prelude also received more than $3.1 million in a job performance grant from the Strategic Fund to hire 121 new employees in the next three years, more than doubling its current workforce of 104.

“Prelude is proud to call Delaware home and we look forward to many years of growth and success here in the future,” Vaddi said in a statement when asked about the latest grants. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the Chestnut Run lease on Tuesday.

The biopharma firm has become a bit of a Delaware darling, as the rapidly expanding company has been backed twice by the state’s taxpayer-backed Strategic Fund. In 2017, Prelude received a $474,000 grant to add positions and relocate from the STAR Campus in Newark. In 2019, it received a $834,000 grant to add 49 positions by 2022 and invest $5 million into expanded lab and office space in the Wilmington area.

“As you can see … Prelude is at a crucial growth point that will continue to strengthen the Delaware innovation ecosystem through R&D investment, intellectual property growth, partnership opportunities, and high‐quality job growth,” wrote Noah Olson, DPP’s acting director of innovation, in a letter to the Council on Development Finance accompanying Prelude’s application.

“DPP believes this project is a great application for the program because the management team is sound; the product and market segment meet the goals and requirements of the program; intellectual property and freedom to operate appear unencumbered; and financial positions as a publicly traded company appear solid,” Olson added.

MRA’s $500 million research and innovation park aims to redevelop about 780,000 square feet in about 13 laboratories at the campus off Route 141. DuPont will continue to own and operate its headquarter offices on the northern edge of the property a few miles west of downtown Wilmington, as it has since moving there six years ago. It will also lease about 190,000 square feet in two lab buildings back from MRA Group.

Renamed Chestnut Run Innovation & Science Park (CRISP), the 163-acre campus will feature shared amenities like a hotel, fitness center, outdoor amphitheater, conference space, and restaurants.

Renovations have commenced, with the first reconstructed building to be occupied in late summer of 2022, MRA reported. It said it is in active discussions with several life science and research companies already, with Prelude now being publicly known.

Prelude’s lease marks the first major tenant in the new research park, and represents the pipeline of startup-to-significant employer that state officials have hoped to foster with an innovation-focused economy. In a statement, Gov. John Carney said that, “Prelude’s commitment only reaffirms that Delaware is a great state for companies of any size to put down roots, grow, and create good-paying jobs.”

“Prelude is one of Delaware’s most innovative and fastest-growing companies. We couldn’t be more pleased that they are making this commitment to our state, and I’m excited about the potential for even more growth at Chestnut Run in the coming years,” he said. “The facts are we have a world-class workforce, a central location along I-95, low taxes, and great communities to live and raise a family.”

Michael Fleming, president of the Delaware BioScience Association, a trade group for state biopharma firms, said the news was evidence of the growing strength of Delaware’s life sciences sector.

“Prelude could have gone anywhere but their decision to stay here and make their new long-term home at CRISP underlines the momentum and opportunity in the Delaware life sciences sector. Their new, expanded presence in that exciting site will undoubtedly be a magnet for more innovative science companies there and in other great locations our state offers,” he said. “Most importantly, we should remember this significant investment and the new jobs it will create is all focused on the hard but noble work of developing breakthrough therapies for patients with some of the most difficult and deadly cancers.”

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