UPMC says government didn't guarantee purchase of vaccine from proposed factory

A University of Pittsburgh Medical Center representative recently revealed that the federal government made no guarantees that it would buy vaccines from a proposed factory at a former steel mill site in Hazelwood, Pa.  

Sean Logan, a former state senator and the vice president for community relations for UPMC, spoke during a community meeting on Tuesday night about why the project was shelved. The factory, which was expected to produce vaccines to counter biological warfare agents such as smallpox, was touted as a means of creating up to 1,000 permanent jobs, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.

"It just wasn't going to happen," Logan said, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "Did a politician drop the ball? That's absolutely not the case."

The federal government would have paid for half of the project, which was estimated at between $600 million and $800 million. Logan said that information from Health and Human Services led UPMC to believe that the government would instead produce the vaccines in an existing building.

"It is extremely unfortunate that the 21st Century Biodefense project was canceled," Joanna Doven, a spokeswoman for mayor Luke Ravenstahl, said, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "The boost from this project for Hazelwood, the city of Pittsburgh and the economy of Western Pennsylvania would have been felt for generations."

Donald Smith, who works for the Regional Industrial Development Corp., told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that the vaccine factory would have used 30 acres of the 178 acre site and that five companies or developers still have interest in the old mill site.