Pennsylvania biodefense center receives $30 million boost

A proposed $830 million biodefense center in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, will receive a $30 million boost thanks to a state capital construction bill Gov. Ed Rendell plans to sign.

The $30 million will come from a $600 million Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program , according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The $30 million should help the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center compete with other states to create a state-of-the-art vaccine-producing center, according to the report.

The $30 million is just a small start for the proposed UPMC biodefense center, which would need $580 million in federal funds and $250 million from UPMC.

Plans for the center initially began last summer when UPMC officials and backers of the project pitched the plan to a congressional panel.

University and federal officials have argued that development of vaccines at the center will be the cornerstone of defense against bio-attacks by terrorists.

The proposed facility, according to the report, will have eight vaccine-producing units complete with staff and resources. The facility could begin operations within four years and would employ 1,000 people in high-tech, high-paying jobs, and create another 6,000 indirect jobs, officials told the Post-Gazette.

U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter told the Post-Gazette that UPMC would have an advantage do to its proximity to the University of Pittsburgh, which has a Center for Vaccine Research.

State officials backing the center include senators Jim Ferlo, Wayne Fontana and Jay Cost and representatives Jake Wheatley, Dom Costa, Chelsa Wagner, Dan Frankel, Joe Preston, Paul Costa and Harry Readshaw.

“All the projects in the RACP bill that governor will sign today are important and some will create hundreds of high-paying jobs,” Jay Costa told  the Post-Gazette. “While the state's $30 million investment pales in comparison to the federal and private investment, these state capital dollars will leverage three to four times of the investment and create new jobs.”