UPMC cancels plans for bioterror vaccine factory

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center canceled plans to build a high-profile vaccine factory that might have employed 1,000 people at a long-vacant steel mill site in a Pittsburgh, Pa., neighborhood.

The proposed factory, which would have used up to 30 acres of the 178-acre site in the Hazelton neighborhood, was expected to produce vaccines that could counter biological warfare agents like smallpox, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.

"The community is devastated," Jim Richter, the executive director of the Hazelwood Initiative, which sponsors programs to stabilize the neighborhood, said, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "Many in the community were pinning some of their hopes of economic resurgence on UPMC's proposal."

UPMC officials said that the federal government, which would have paid for half of the facility, wants to produce vaccines in an existing facility rather than building a new one.

"If they could do it that way, I think their thinking is, then it would be less expensive," Robert Cindrich, a senior adviser to UPMC President Jeff Romoff, said, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "If you were in the pharmaceutical business or had a vaccine factory, that might be attractive to you. We are not."

Leaders in the community had touted the potential economic impact if the factory was built, including 1,000 potential permanent jobs, followed by 4,000 other jobs if additional companies migrated to the area as a result of the factory.