VP Patty Fritz talks about UCB headquarter expansion in Smyrna

metal logo on signage outside a UCB buildingPhoto courtesy of UCB

by Mark Woolsey

Global biopharma company UCB is forging ahead on a $47.5 million expansion of its U.S. headquarters In Smyrna. Construction on the 60,000 square foot addition is expected to finish in the fourth quarter of this year. But the overall project includes more than girders and drywall, it will also house the company’s inspace work model, touted as providing an environment designed to foster innovation, health, wellbeing and a strong employee culture.

The company says its mission consists of discovering and developing innovative medicines and solutions to transform the lives of people living with severe diseases.

In conjunction with the physical and work culture improvements to its 47-acre campus, UCB says employment is expected to grow from 425 to more than 500 employees.

The Courier caught up with Patty Fritz, the company’s Vice President of U.S Corporate Affairs, responded to questions about the company, its work, the pending expansion and the inspace initiative.

Q. What does your company do specifically to improve the lives of those suffrering from neurological and immunological ailments?

A. UCB’s deep commitment to patients is embedded at the core of everything we do-from how we work to how we think to how we hire and from where we focus to where we invest. Our research and development activities span neurology, immumology, bone and other areas where we have the opportunity to use our expertise to provide valuable solutions for patients who need them.

Within the neurological space, UCB has a large focus on epilepsy and four approved medicines that treat a range of seizure types. Outside of epilepsy, UCB is focused on other neurological conditions that are progressive, rare or difficult to treat, such as myasthenia gravis. In immunology, we are focused on several autoimmune conditions including psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis

Q. What is your role with the company,.

A. As Vice President of U.S. Corporate Affairs for UCB, I lead public policy, government affairs, advocacy, sustainability and communications and public affairs in the U.S., as well as the company’s strategic priorities in Washington D.C. I handle efforts to create value for patients and their families through strategic engagement and by positively influencing the healthcare environment and policy landscape?

Q. Why did the company pick Smyrna for its headquarters and expansion.

A. UCB has been part of the greater Atlanta community since 1994. We chose Smyrna for our U.S. headquarters because of the greater Atlanta region’s thriving and growing healthcare, university and academic medical center, health technology and life sciences ecosystem that provides a rich network of passionate leaders.

Q. What’s the inspace work environment and how does it work? How does it contribute to the overall company and its services?

A. Within the environment, there are four main workplace models, each with unique design elements and functions. Each space offers a different level of noise, interaction and light to create an environment tailored to an individual’s needs in general and for the specific task they’re carrying out at the time.

There’s focus inspace, engineered for individual work best suited for silence and concentration; my inspace, which provides neighborhood layouts that includes zones for individual concentration and collaboration, team areas for small-scale interaction and places for personal and team anchoring. Our inspace houses multipurpose areas for dining, support, interaction and informal and formal large-scale meetings. And pioneer inspace includes facilities for cross-functional collaboration and project spaces for UCB and its partners.

Q. What’s behind the physical expansion and what does it entail?

A. The expansion is separated into three phases, and we’re currently in phase two. Phase one began in 2019 and included designing the comprehensive campus master plan. Phase two started in 2020 when we broke ground and will go all the way until our grand opening, planned for the end of 2021. The future phase three will entail a new building design and renovation for our 2100 building, which will house the My inspace workplace model.

Q. How did the pandemic affect UCB’s operations and any future plans? How were employees impacted and what safety measures were taken?

A. The future of where and how we work was put to the test by COID-19 and is undergoing immense changes. Thankfully, we had a head start on reimagining the workplace well before the pandemic forced other employers to do the same. We have been able to incorporate learnings from living in the pandemic in real time into our plans.

We also asked all employees that were able to work remotely to do so and instigated a travel freeze. However, we were aware that not all employees can do their work remotely so UCB initiated a high level of health of health and hygiene preventive measures at all of our sites, including increased and frequent cleansing and disinfection and implementation social distancing guidelines.

Q. Beyond the current expansion, is the company undertaking any new initiatives?

A. One exciting thing we’re doing in drug discovery is using computational design and AI to more efficiently identify compounds that have a higher chance of leading to effective therapies.

We are also heavily focused on sustainability. UCB plans to be carbon neutral by reducing our emissions by 35% by 2030 and 70% by 2050. To further complement our efforts, we are embracing carbon compensation for emissions we cannot avoid.