Three firms announce partnership for UPMC vaccine factory

Batelle, IBM and Merck & Co. have announced a partnership with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center to develop a vaccine factory to quickly respond to biological, chemical or radiological threats and bioterror attacks.

The three new partners join GE Healtchare in the project, which UPMC foresees as operated in partnership with the federal government. The proposed vaccine facility would be federally funded and operate as a non-profit subsidiary of UPMC.

“Through this collaboration, we are poised to deliver the urgently needed advances in vaccine development and manufacturing as recently called for by President Obama in his State of the Union address,” UPMC Chief Legal Counsel Robert Cindrich said in a statement.

Batelle has agreed to provide pre-clinical research and development services, including model development for infectious diseases and evaluations of product safety and efficacy. Battelle's services will aid the licensure of new vaccines and therapeutics.

Information technology will be provided by IBM to support vaccine manufacturing processes and operations.

Merck's contributions will include drug development and bioprocess counsel as part of a planned consortium with other biopharmaceutical companies.

The estimated cost for the facility, which UPMC president and CEO Jeffrey Romoff said he would like to see built near the old Pittsburgh International Airport, was originally $900 million, though recent estimates are lower.

The facility would be owned and operated by 21CB, a non-profit corporation created last year by UPMC, and would create 1,000 jobs directly and as many as 6,000 jobs indirectly.