New bio-facility to serve as prototype for defense facilities

Brett Giroir, vice-chancellor for research at the Texas A & M University System, recently announced progress on a large-scale experimental biopharmaceutical facility that will serve as a prototype for strategic defense facilities.

Giroir made these comments while speaking at the 8th Annual Bio-defense Vaccines and Therapeutics Conference on June 14 in Washington, D.C.

Giroir used the occasion to link the two ongoing projects to attempts to create an infrastructure for the “accelerated manufacturing of medical counter-measures to counter emerging human evolved threat agents.” He called the projects part of a “massively large architecture with a product focus.”

The first facility, the National Center for Therapeutics Management, contains a 104,000 square-feet bioprocesses wing and a 48,000 square-feet academic wing. Giroir said that the focus of the building’s construction will be on its flexibility.

“Stainless steel and concrete have truly gone the way of the dinosaur,” he said. The facility will, instead, house a series of 42-foot by 18-foot pods that are entirely mobile, self-contained and outfitted with dual redundant core systems. The pods will “float” on air bearings so they can be easily moved within the facility or be “loaded onto trucks or a C-17.”

The National Center for Therapeutics Management is expected to be completed in November 2011 at a cost of approximately $59 million. Giroir calls it a “guaranteed price, well below the hundreds of millions of dollars that could be expected” in comparable facilities using existing methods.

Academically owned, but privately operated, the National Center for Therapeutics Management is intended to quickly get “products into the pipeline” by commercial enterprises that may otherwise not be able to afford traditional facilities and equipment, while educating a new generation of academics and technicians. It is also to be considered a prototype for strategic defense facilities that may need to be up and running in an emergency in a matter of months as opposed to years.