Biotechnology is a booming industry in Westchester, with nearly 20 percent of New York State’s biotech-sector workforce calling Westchester home. Nearly 1,800 employees—a large chunk of that workforce—walk through the doors of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals’ massive Tarrytown campus every day.
The company, which is currently undergoing an expansion, will soon occupy one million square feet of space, a huge leap from its humble beginnings. The company’s roots are 27 years deep—Leonard Schleifer founded Regeneron after striking a $1 million deal in an Upper East Side Chinese restaurant with a Merrill Lynch venture capitalist. Schleifer soon recruited George Yancopoulos as Regeneron’s founding scientist, and, after a couple different drug-launch failures over its first 13 years, the company introduced EYLEA, which stops—and in some cases reverses—loss of eyesight related to different age and medical conditions. Since then, the FDA has approved two other Regeneron-developed drugs (ARCALYST and ZALTRAP), and the company has also made biotech breakthroughs. And Regeneron now rakes in more than $2 billion in sales.
We went to the company’s Tarrytown headquarters for a (very long) walk through of the site’s various labs to get a firsthand look at the work Regeneron is doing.
Regeneron’s Pilot Bioreactor Suite, where the company produces material for pre-clinical studies and assesses scalability of the production processes to ensure they’ll perform well when they reach manufacturing scale.
Regeneron’s Founder, President, and Chief Executive Officer Leonard S. Schleifer, MD, PhD, along with Director, Bioreactor Scale-Up and Development Michelle LaFond, walk through the company’s Pilot Bioreactor Suite.
Regeneron’s Google-like campus features a large breakout lounge, where employees can collaborate, take phone calls, or play the company Wii. They also host different countywide events in this space, such as exhibits and receptions for ArtsWestchester.
Michael Kaplan, senior director, facilities operations for Regeneron, stands in front of a bank of computer screens that display and control different systems—including the heating and cooling system—within the company’s sprawling campus.
Regeneron’s executive team—Neil Stahl, EVP, research and development (left); Leonard Schleifer, president and CEO (center); and George Yancopoulos, chief scientific officer (right)—meets in Schliefer’s office during one of their many-a-day impromptu meetings. The day after this was shot, Yancopoulos flew to meet with President Barack Obama to discuss the future of biotech.
To house the growing amount of research the company is doing, Regeneron broke ground on an additional 300,000 square feet of space in October, 2013. The new space will encase more office and laboratory space and will also include a conference and assembly center as well as outdoor space with stadium seating, a grass courtyard, and eating spaces.
Inside the Regeneron Genetics Center, Mathew Smith is operating a custom-built, automated platform for ultra high-throughput sample preparation. This technology allows the company to sequence the DNA of more people per week than any other in the world, with the goal of explaining genetic factors that cause or influence a range of human diseases.
Automation Associate Matthew Koletsky screening thousands of VelocImmune antibodies. VelocImmune is a technology for producing fully human monoclonal antibodies. The technology led to the VelocImmune mouse, the largest mammalian genetic engineering project ever accomplished—a mouse capable of producing fully human antibodies.
Gigi Wang, a research associate in the Embryonic Stem Cell Technology Group, operating with a highly advanced robotic platform to process embryonic stem (ES) cells, which have the potential to differentiate into any type of cell in a mouse. Scientists at the company generate genetically engineered mouse models from these ES cells containing a desired genetic modification, and perform steps using robots to support VelociGene’s high-throughput pipeline.
Saathyaki Rajamani using an X-ray microcomputer tomography scanner to image an adult mouse eye. The display on the monitor shows a 3D volume rendering of the eye, which is actually 2 mm x 2 mm in size.
Sam Cichon runs Regeneron’s pair of 3D printers, which he uses to build different lab equipment (trays and the like).
In the Target Discovery lab, Samer Nuwayhid studies the rib-cage section of a 12-day-old mouse embryo. The blue parts are where the embryo is expressing a certain protein Nuwayhid is looking for.
Joseph Hickey, a senior microinjectionist, introducing mouse ES cells into early stage mouse embryos using a micropipette. Using Rengeneron’s proprietary VelociMouse technology, with the help of a laser, Hickey opened a hole in an immobilized eight-cell embryo, through which about eight genetically modified ES cells are inserted. The microinjected embryos are then transferred into a pseudo-pregnant female mouse, which will give birth to a litter of pups that are fully derived from the cells microinjected. Consequently, each one of the cells of the newborn mice contains the modifications introduced through the VelociGene process.