Hundreds of biotech employees to work in Wilmington’s downtown

Biopharmaceutical company Incyte expects to relocate 400 employees from its Pennsylvania offices and expand in downtown Wilmington by 2026.

Incyte's offices in the Wilmington suburbs of Alapocas. (Kristen Mosbrucker-Garza/WHYY)

Incyte's offices in the Wilmington suburbs of Alapocas. (Kristen Mosbrucker-Garza/WHYY)

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Wilmington-based biopharmaceutical company Incyte expects to move its corporate headquarters to the city’s downtown by 2026.

Incyte is a publicly traded global business that develops and manufactures medication to treat some rare cancers, inflammation and autoimmune diseases.

It plans to relocate 400 employees from its Chadds Ford office near the Pennsylvania-Delaware border to Wilmington. As the company continues to grow, it expects to hire 500 more employees.

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Incyte is combining its oncology and dermatology teams in Chadds Ford with its corporate office workers in Alapocas, a suburb of Wilmington at the downtown complex.

It’s neither pulling out of the suburban office nor pulling research, development or technical workers downtown, though.

To make space for all those workers moving, Incyte acquired two prominent office buildings in Wilmington’s downtown — Bracebridge I and III — that span more than 500,000 square feet. There are more than 1,000 parking spaces in its garage and it’s about a 20-minute walk from the Wilmington train stop.

Wilmington-based biopharmaceutical company Incyte is moving into Bracebridge downtown which was built in the mid-1990s as the headquarters credit card business MBNA Corp. then later Bank of America, which moved out in 2018. (Kristen Mosbrucker-Garza/WHYY)

The assessed value of the buildings were $13.2 million and $9.7 million, respectively, New Castle County records show.

The Bracebridge office complex was built in the mid-1990s for credit card business MBNA Corp. as its headquarters. Bank of America acquired MBNA and took over the buildings for a few years but has been downsizing its office footprint.

In 2005, Bank of America acquired WBNA Corp. In 2018, Bank of America moved out of the flagship office and is now moving employees out of downtown, the company announced several months ago. (Kristen Mosbrucker-Garza/WHYY)

Now some of those buildings have been sitting vacant.

Officials touted that the Incyte investment is a big boost to the downtown economy.

The office vacancy rate in the central business district was 27% during the first quarter of 2024, according to commercial real estate advisory business Newmark.

“This little corner of the city which once was the bustling home of MBNA is going to see a resurgence,” said Mike Purzycki, mayor of Wilmington. “You’ve got four hundred people in a part of the city that’s been pretty vacant, all of a sudden people are going out to lunch, they have dinner at night. Some will come to live downtown.”

The buildings sit on the corner of Rodney Square, the city’s largest public green space, which recently underwent an $8 million renovation project.

One of the Bracebridge buildings Incyte is moving into sits across the street from Rodney Square, a park in downtown Wilmington. (Kristen Mosbrucker-Garza/WHYY)

Purzycki won’t likely be in public office to watch Incyte workers move in, he’s slated to retire when his term ends. But Delaware Gov. John Carney just might — he’s running to become Wilmington’s next mayor.

The biopharmaceutical company Incyte has grown in the past decade to more than 2,500 employees worldwide — up from 588 workers in 2014.

Jakafi, an FDA-approved and patented as a treatment for a rare blood cancer, was Incyte’s first commercial product. It’s marketed as a medication for when chemotherapy medication isn’t effective. In 2023, Jakafi sales generated $2.5 billion in revenue. Total revenue hit $3.6 billion and the company earned $597 million in profits in 2023.

Gov. Carney called Incyte “a Delaware success story,” a nod to its roots.

In 2002, Incyte was created after a merger between Palo Alto, California–based Incyte Pharmaceuticals and Incyte Genomics of Delaware, and was spearheaded by a group of former DuPont Pharmaceuticals scientists as founders.

The deal to expand to downtown Wilmington almost didn’t happen.

Incyte was “pretty far down the road” on a different plan to invest in a sprawling suburban campus as an expansion in Alapocas, a site that already has three buildings totaling more than 500,000 square feet, said Mayor Purzycki.

But New Castle County officials rejected its plan for a 400,000-square-foot office and voted down its zoning permit. Incyte wrote off $5.6 million in costs related to its previous plan to purchase the Wilmington Friends School property for its proposed suburban expansion.

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So state officials worked with the company in partnership with the city to consider other sites — like downtown. Incyte began meeting with the city in August 2023.

The city has invested tens of millions of dollars to improve its public spaces, community centers, encouraging building renovations and apartment projects.

“We’ve got more restaurants, night spots and hotels than the city has ever had before,” Purzycki said. “What we really need are people going to work every day.”

Incyte employees work in the office at least four days a week and there’s an optional remote workday for the fifth day, according to the company. In the next three years, Incyte expects to spend between $100 million to $200 million for buying the downtown buildings plus renovations and its planned suburban lab space retrofit, according to the company.

State economic development leaders negotiated the lion’s share of subsidies to entice Incyte to invest in Wilmington — nearly $15 million in total. Wilmington is expected to kick in some incentives too but that hasn’t yet been hashed out, Purzycki said.

“These investments are well worth it in the long run,” he said.

Now the Alapocas campus will be converted into lab space. The average salaries of workers relocating downtown is between $90,000 and $200,000.

The company is eligible for a jobs performance grant up to $9.1 million from Delaware’s Council on Development Finance, a graduated lab space grant up to $5.6 million from Delaware Strategic Fund — the money for which is contingent upon the company meeting its commitments. In total, the company could get $14.7 million in state subsidies.

“The grants provided historically for our growth and expansion, as well as those granted to us last week, allow companies like ours to succeed and be long-term contributors to the state and local community,” said Paula Swain, executive vice president and head of HR and facilities at Incyte. “The state, city, and county officials have been long-time supporters of innovative companies like ours and we are grateful for their continued support.”

Hervé Hoppenot, CEO of Incyte, said in a news release that the company is “grateful to the continued support of the state, the city and others.”

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