UPMC may have new bioweapon vaccine plant site

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center may have found a new site in Hazelwood, Pennsylvania, to build a facility that can produce bioweapons vaccines.

"We think there's enough domestic capacity for influenza vaccines," Robert Cindrich said, according to PittsburghLive.com. "That's not why we go into this; it's not what's responsive to the nation's need."

Cindrich is a special advisor to the UPMC President Jeffrey Romoff and the system's former chief legal counsel.

Producing vaccines for biological weapons agents like smallpox would be the facility's main concern.

In 2009, producing vaccines became a priority when it was discovered that there was not enough vaccine to counter the H1N1 influenza. The Obama administration then made the acquisition of vaccines to counter pandemics and bioterrorism a priority, according to PittsburghLive.com.

"This would exponentially increase our profile worldwide and would give us the opportunity to attract and retain scientists and researchers," Representative Jason Altmire, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, said, according to PittsburghLive.com. "This is something that we need to have, so that when something happens we don't say 'Geez, I wish I had invested in it before.'"

At least three institutions from around the country are expected to submit construction bids for the project to the Department of Health and Human Services, which has set aside $12 billion for vaccine production.