Alexion leaders talk research, booming biotech industry in New Haven
Several leaders at Alexion Pharmaceuticals spoke with the News about their research work and the developing biotech industry in New Haven.
Yale Daily News
Alexion Pharmaceuticals has been a staple of the pharmaceutical industry in New Haven since its arrival in 2016 from Chesire, Connecticut.
The pharmaceutical firm, which was acquired by AstraZeneca in 2021, specializes in the treatment of rare diseases. The firm has over 500 employees at its New Haven office and is expecting to hire more in the coming years in their research and development department.
Allen Tavari, a researcher who previously worked at biopharmaceutical company Amgen and specializes in downstream processing, highlighted the firm’s close-knit culture and values.
“Working at Alexion has been a very rewarding experience. Amgen is very large, and they have tens of thousands of employees. Alexion acts like a small-to-midsize biotech company,” Tavari said. “And this helps with collaboration. One person might be wearing many different hats so you will get the opportunity to work with people across different departments.”
Tavari is a leader in Alexion’s next generation downstream processing research. He explained that his research has focused on using smaller-scale bioproductors to reduce material costs and footprint, while not diminishing output.
To meet global demand for biologicals — medicines purified from cell cultures of bacteria or yeast or plant or animal cells — firms normally use large bioproductors that tend to be 20,000 liters in size, according to Tavari. But he said that his team, which specializes in research and development, uses a far smaller scale that tends to range between three and ten liters.
Alexion uses sites in Dublin, Ireland and Anthole, Ireland, to produce on the traditional, larger scale.
Much of the work on this project and Alexion’s research and development department has relied on local talent. According to Andrei Arion, another Alexion researcher, this was a major reason why the firm chose New Haven.
“The talent pool in the area is amazing. The people that don’t want to live in a big city like Boston or New York City come here because you can have both a suburban and urban lifestyle here,” Arion said. “This is big for researchers who are looking for a healthy work life balance.”
Tavari shared similar sentiments, highlighting New Haven’s leading population of lab technicians and microbiologists. According to a Global Commercial Real Estate Services report from 2022, New Haven has the nation’s highest concentration of microbiologists and biological technicians.
Neethu Srinivaas, a researcher at Alexion, also pointed to the “presence of many startups and incubators” as another upside to being located in the city. He added that these resources can yield great results for nascent businesses and research projects by offering networks, resources and even mentorship.
Tavari also cited the city’s “good balance” of local universities as a leading cause for this support.
Yale has been an anchor tenant in Alexion’s building and is leasing an estimated 125,000 square-feet across three of the building’s 10 floors in partnership with BioLabs, an incubator for biotech startups, according to a Yale press release in 2022.
The University press release noted that Yale hopes to “accelerate” the growth of multiple startups and is collaborating with the city’s Downtown Crossing economic development plan.
Alexion is located at 100 College St.