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[caption id="attachment_29726" align="alignleft" width="360" caption="BioMarin completed a $60 million-plus capital project in 2010 to more than double commercial production capacity at the eight-building campus in the Bel Marin Keys industrial area."][/caption]

NOVATO -- In just over 10 years, Novato-based BioMarin Pharmaceutical Inc. has become one of the top pharmaceutical manufacturers, not just in the North Bay but in the industry in general.

The company, founded in 1997 with a $1.5 million investment, has grown from a start-up drug company in northern Marin to an international, publicly-traded company with annual revenues in the hundreds of millions and 700 employees across the globe. At the end of the first quarter in 2011, the company had assets of $394 million.

BioMarin Pharmaceutical Inc.

Address: 105 Digital Drive, Novato 94949

Phone: 415-506-6700

Website: www.bmrn.com

Employees: 700

Since its founding, BioMarin has commercialized four products treating rare diseases, as the company attempts to address patients with "serious unmet medical needs."

The products include: Naglazyme, a product developed wholly by BioMarin that treats MPS (mucopolysaccharidosis) -- a rare metabolic disease that can stunt growth and limit joint movement; Adurazyme for MPS, which was developed through a 50/50 joint venture with Genzyme Corporation; Kuvan Tablets for PKU (phenylketonuria), a rare condition in which an infant is born without the ability to break down certain amino acids, which was developed through a 50/50 joint venture with Germany-based Merck Serono; and Firdapse, which currently is approved in the European Union for treating Lambert Eaton Myasthenic Syndrome (LEMS), a rare neuromuscular disease.

Several products are in clinical phases as well.

While BioMarin has specialized in rare disorders, it recently launched a partnership with another Novato-based organization, The Buck Institute for Age Research, to tackle one of the most common and feared diseases: Familial, or early onset, Alzheimer's. The disease can affect people as young as in their 30s -- well below the typical onset of the neurological condition that is usually developed in people in their 70s or 80s.

The population for early onset Alzheimer's is "relatively tiny," according to Dr. Gordon Vehar, vice president of research for BioMarin. A 2007 report by the Alzheimer's Association put the number at around 200,000.

That small number makes it an ideal fit for BioMarin, as part of its goal in finding treatments for rare diseases. The partnership is a two-year collaboration with the Buck, which focuses on the diseases and conditions of aging.

Since 2009, BioMarin has sponsored a master's degree program at Dominican University in San Rafael. Each year two students receive $25,000 apiece for two years of biopharmaceutical-related research leading to a Masters of Biology.

According to Dr. Sibday Ghosh, associate dean for academic development and professor in the biology department at Dominican, two recipients of the scholarship have received the advanced degrees and four more are currently in the program, which includes some hands-on work at BioMarin's laboratories.

"It's a wonderful way for our students to do biopharm research alongside professionals and witness the development of pharmaceuticals that will be used to relieve suffering," said Dr. Ghosh.

Most recently, BioMarin entered into an agreement to buy a 133,000-square-foot manufacturing plant in Cork, Ireland, from pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, for $48.5 million -- a significant growth and the first production expansion outside the U.S. for BioMarin.

The acquisition of the plant, as well as the establishment of an international supply chain and logistics in Dublin earlier this year, represent a key step in growing BioMarin's international manufacturing capabilities, according to Jean-Jacques Beinaime, chief executive officer of the company.

"The new plant … greatly expands our manufacturing capacity to accommodate our growing portfolio and advancing clinical programs," he said upon announcing the acquisition. The Cork purchase come on the heels of BioMarin's planned expansion of its Novato manufacturing facility, which is on track to receive approval by the end of 2011 and which will support approximately $1 billion in revenue.