The RK Mellon Basis donates $ 100 million to Pitt to construct BioForge for Life Sciences in Hazelwood Inexperienced
You can still show off giant ovens and vats of molten steel if Monday Night Football hits town by the end of time, but soon Pittsburgh could be known for making something smaller.
Okay, much smaller.
The Richard King Mellon Foundation donated $ 100 million to the University of Pittsburgh to help create BioForge, a giant factory for small things.
“This is a specialized manufacturing facility that makes therapeutics for treating diseases – but these therapeutics are not chemicals, so they are not pill therapeutics,” explains Pitt Chancellor Patrick Gallagher. “These are biological units, things like cells or viral vectors that provide genetic material, or monoclonal antibodies or the like.”
Plans are for a massive 200,000 to 250,000 square foot facility to be built in Hazelwood Green capable of carrying out the most advanced organic production projects. This $ 100 million gift is the largest single project donation in the history of the RK Mellon Foundation. Combined with another recent RK Mellon Foundation grant to Carnegie Mellon University ($ 150 million for multiple projects, including a $ 45 million Robotics Innovation Center in Hazelwood Green), the former steel mill site could resemble the ambitious plans to which were set up for this decades ago by the Almono partnership.
“When we launched our 10-year plan to raise $ 1.2 billion in the region over the next decade, we wanted to invest in some very bold ideas,” said Sam Reiman, director of the RK Mellon Foundation. “The foundation is making a historic bet that Pittsburgh will become a nationwide leader in the life sciences. If Covid-19 has taught us anything, it is that we need to discover and make advances in healthcare right here at home. “
Exactly where it will be based at Hazelwood Green, how many people it will employ and what it will look like remains to be determined. However, it is expected to be fully functional in five years.
Demand for office space has decreased during the pandemic as people continue to work from home, but life sciences is an exception. The specialized spaces needed for biotechnological research and development – “clean rooms”, laboratories, and modern machinery – are difficult to find and tend to fill up quickly.
A number of Pitt research teams will move to the BioForge facility, working on topics such as gene and cell therapy, microneedles and other novel therapeutics and delivery technologies, and the development of micro and nanoantibodies. It will also be a hub for life sciences startups and established companies looking to bring their manufacturing supply chains closer to home.
“It’s usually used as a contract manufacturing facility,” says Gallagher. “Other companies that have ideas for therapeutics basically rent production time. And these facilities, among other things, not only specialize in the production of these materials, but also in exceptionally high quality so that they can be used for patients and clinical settings. “
Although BioForge is expected to create many high-quality jobs of its own – the initial estimate is “several hundred” – the facility is expected to have a multiplier effect for a local life science sector that is already growing rapidly.
Combined with Pitt’s own financial commitment and funding from industry partners, the BioForge is designed to make Pittsburgh a global destination for life science investors and innovators.
It’ll take specialty expertise, but Pitt has the right tools for the job, says Gallagher.
“It is one of the leaders of the country – [Pitt] ranks in the top five or six for National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding of any university in the United States, ”notes Gallagher. “UPMC, our affiliate partner, is one of the largest – if not the largest – academic medical center systems in the country.”
Certain new biological advances have emerged during the pandemic, such as messenger RNA vaccines and monoclonal antibody treatments. There is also an ongoing revolution in immunotherapies used to treat cancer. The need for large-scale manufacturing facilities for new therapeutics is enormous and growing.
“They’re not like pills; one would like to take tissue from patients, modify it in the laboratory, manufacture it in this clinical quality and bring it back to the patient here, ”explains Gallagher. “And this is one of the few places where you have the research and clinical (expertise) – and insurance – to operate on the full market scale.”
Hazelwood has long suffered the aftermath of the closure of the LTV steel mill along its riverbank. Hazelwood Green is designed to tie in with the existing neighborhood and provide opportunities that have been missed for decades. And of course there is now plenty of public parking to connect Hazelwood to the river.
“We want to make sure that this is a development that is unlike any other fallow land development that has ever taken place in the city,” says Reiman.
“We took great care not to repeat some of the mistakes that were made in other locations in the past.
“The difference is that we now have the advantage of having seen what works and what doesn’t, and how do you ensure that this also benefits the people who are part of this community.”
Back to the Salk vaccine for polio, Pitt has long been a leader in cutting-edge medicine. Over the past five years, Pitt researchers, faculty, and students have founded 87 university technology-based startups, received 503 US patents, filed 1,768 invention disclosures, and generated $ 46.7 million in technology transfer revenues .
“We believe this project is a cross-generational opportunity to create large-scale shared prosperity for the people of southwest Pennsylvania and cement Pittsburgh’s status as a national and global leader in one of the most important economic sectors of our time,” said Richard A. Mellon , Chairman of the Board of Trustees & Officers, Richard King Mellon Foundation.
Much of the innovation in the region has been – and still is – with support from the RK Mellon Foundation, the largest foundation in western Pennsylvania.
You have helped expand or launch the Center for Energy, the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (now UPMC Hillman Cancer Center), and the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition (a joint program with Carnegie Mellon University).