March 23, 2011
By James Madore
Seeking to bolster the local operations of OSI Pharmaceuticals Inc., state senators Tuesday gave final passage to a bill enlarging the business incubator at Farmingdale State College.
The legislation sets boundaries for the Broad Hollow Bioscience Park at 38.5 acres and paves the way for construction of a third building. That structure would house start-up companies while OSI would expand into an existing second building.
OSI, which makes the lung cancer drug Tarceva, was born from research begun at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, which also helped establish the bioscience park.
The bill exempts park tenants from state construction and procurement laws despite being on a SUNY campus. The time-consuming rules were cited by OSI's former owner in 2009 as reason to move to Westchester County rather than expand in Farmingdale.
OSI's departure from Long Island after more than 25 years was partially reversed in May when the company was purchased by Astellas Pharma of Japan for $4 billion.
Area leaders successfully lobbied Astellas to keep the OSI research labs in Farmingdale, where about 90 people work. However, the Melville headquarters will still be shuttered, with the loss of 150 jobs.
OSI chief executive Naoki Okamura Tuesday lauded state lawmakers, saying, "OSI and Astellas are extremely proud of the many exciting possibilities, including our potential future growth at the site, that result from this new strategic partnership between OSI, the university and the state of New York."
OSI occupies a 62,000-square-foot building but hopes to expand into the adjacent 40,000-square-foot building. The move would create about 135 jobs. Rent from OSI would then help fund a third structure of 50,000 square feet.
The legislation passed the 62-member Senate unanimously Tuesday after being approved in the Assembly 144-2 on March 15. An aide to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo did not immediately respond to a question about whether he would veto or sign the bill into law.
The bill's sponsors, Sen. Charles Fuschillo Jr. (R-Merrick) and Assemb. Robert Sweeney (D-Lindenhurst), said they hoped the park's expansion would be a tonic to the biotechnology industry, often cited as a key driver of the region's economic future. The pair sponsored the 1999 law creating the park, which is run by a not-for-profit organization with ties to Cold Spring Harbor Lab.
Fuschillo said, "When over 116,000 Long Islanders are unemployed, this is a measure that would lead to hundreds of new jobs . . . and tens of millions of dollars in new revenue for our economy."
Sweeney agreed, adding the park has already increased the number of students studying bioscience at Farmingdale State from 33 in 2003 to 295 this year, and faculty members, from 20 to 46.
Referring to OSI, Farmingdale State president W. Hubert Keen said the bill "greatly strengthens our efforts to ensure that a leading biotech firm will not only remain on Long Island, but also will be able to grow its research operations."