BOSTON — The British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline, which in March closed the Cambridge, Mass., headquarters of an anti-aging biotech startup it had bought earlier, confirmed it plans to open a new research and development office in the city next year.
“Our intention is to have an office in Cambridge with a small staff,” Melinda Stubbee, a U.S. spokeswoman for GSK, said Wednesday. The global drugmaker plans to hire a Cambridge research leader and find office space during the first quarter of 2014.
GSK will join multinational life-sciences companies such as Pfizer, Merck, Johnson & Johnson, Novartis, Sanofi, AstraZeneca, and Shire. All have set up shop or expanded operations in the Boston area in recent years to capitalize on university and hospital research and collaborate with the area’s cluster of biomedical start-ups.
Stubbee said GSK wants to be “a partner of choice and become a more integral part of the local Boston and East Coast ecosystem of venture capital, biotechs, and academic institutions.”
The move in Cambridge, coupled with a plan to open a satellite office in San Diego, is part of a broader push to increase GSK’s presence in research hubs worldwide.
GSK employs about 4,000 people in Research Triangle Park, N.C., which is the company’s North American headquarters. It also has about 600 workers at its manufacturing plant in Zebulon.
In a recent blog post titled “Headed to the Coast(s),” Lon Cardon, a GSK senior vice president, said the new approach mixes the company’s expertise with ideas from local academics and entrepreneurs to create “a customized way to access innovation in the densest biomedical research communities in the world.”
GSK paid $720 million for Sirtris Pharmaceuticals in 2008. Scientists at that Cambridge biotech were studying the anti-aging effects of a red wine chemical called resveratrol and trying to develop drugs that activated enzymes called sirtuins to fight age-related diseases. The nature of their work attracted widespread attention, but the company was not able to bring a product to market.
In March, the British drug company said it was pulling up stakes in Cambridge and folding the Sirtris operation into a research and development center in the Philadelphia area.
Even after that pullback, GSK has continued its partnerships with a number of biotechs and academic collaborators in the Boston area, including the Harvard Stem Cell Institute. It is also majority owner of Tempero Pharmaceuticals, a 4-year-old Cambridge company that is developing therapies for a variety of conditions, including inflammatory bowel disease, psoriasis, lupus, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis.