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Biotechnology / Hiring / Manufacturing / Science

ElevateBio will anchor the new Pitt BioForge facility at Hazelwood Green

The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based biotech company plans to begin operations by 2026 or 2027, generating an estimated 1,400 jobs along the way.

At Pittsburgh's ElevateBio announcement event in August 2022. RK Mellon's Sam Reiman is second from left. (Photo by Brian Conway)
Pittsburgh’s life sciences industry is getting a boost via a new biotech hub, backed by both local and national partners.

Gov. Tom Wolf joined Western Pennsylvania politicians, foundation and nonprofit heads Thursday to announce that ElevateBio will anchor the new Pitt BioForge Biomanufacturing Center at the Hazelwood Green innovation hub.

“This long-term strategic partnership has the goal of accelerating the development and production of highly innovative cell and gene therapies,” University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Patrick Gallagher said at the kickoff event. “This is an environment where the scientific discoveries and innovations that happened in the laboratories and in our hospitals can rapidly be brought to reality through biomanufacturing.”

Construction on the 3.5-acre Pitt BioForge facility, located near Hazelwood Green’s existing Advanced Robotics Manufacturing Center, is scheduled to begin in 2023, with an estimated completion date of 2026 or 2027.

“This is a 30-year commitment,” ElevateBio Chairman and CEO David Hallal said. “We believe Pittsburgh is an ideal location to extend our manufacturing and technology footprint because it sits at the intersection of science, technology and talent.”

In November, the Richard King Mellon Foundation gave $100 million to the University of Pittsburgh to kickstart the creation of the Pitt BioForge facility. RK Mellon, along with the Heinz Endowments and Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, purchased the 178-acre former brownfield site for $10 million in 2003. Last year, the foundation ownership group, Almono LP, contracted with New York development firm Tishman Speyer, owners of Rockefeller Center and other major commercial sites, to develop Hazelwood Green.

“The steelmaking practice here was conceived by visionaries who discovered new ways to harness technology to make Pittsburgh a global leader in manufacturing, and that steel was made by people working jobs and sustaining families to create new opportunities for the people of Hazelwood and throughout the region,” RK Mellon Director Sam Reiman said. “And that is exactly what is starting here again today.”

View of downtown Pittsburgh from the Hazelwood Green development in 2017.

View of downtown Pittsburgh from the Hazelwood Green development in 2017. (Photo courtesy of Carnegie Mellon University)

Officials estimated that the project will generate more than 1,400 jobs, including 900 for site construction, 360 support positions, and around 170 at the ElevateBio facility — approximately half of which will be available to those with community college-levels of education, Hallal said, and not necessarily advanced degrees, as is common in the biotech field.

“This is an opportunity to really create access for people on the other side of Second Avenue who have historically had limited access to economic development and job opportunities since the mills first shut down,” said State Rep. Aerion Abney, whose district encompasses much of Hazelwood.

(In summer 2021, when Carnegie Mellon University announced a grant of $150 million from RK Mellon to fund the robotics manufacturing center at Hazelwood Green, covered both the resources and community concerns that surfaced with the news.)

Dr. Anantha Shekhar, Pitt’s senior vice chancellor for the health sciences and John and Gertrude Petersen dean of the School of Medicine, added that he has already been working with Hallal on workforce training efforts that will send people from Pittsburgh to train and work at ElevateBio facilities in Boston.

TechCrunch reports that ElevateBio raised $525 million in Series C funding last spring, after a $193 million round of Series B funding in 2020. Earlier this month, the biotech company, which was founded in 2017, formed a startup with Boston Children’s Hospital to develop alternatives to current cancer cell therapies.

Within the BioForge facility, ElevateBio intends to locate a BaseCamp research and development and manufacturing facility, which includes technologies for gene editing, induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) and cell, vector, and protein engineering capabilities. ElevateBio received a $860,000 funding proposal coordinated by the Governor’s Action Team, according to a press release from Wolf’s office.

“It is really the result of the vision that UPMC and Pitt created together just … five years ago, ” UPMC President and CEO Leslie C. David said. “It was a plan to accelerate the transformation of breakthrough research into life changing innovation and therapies created right here for the thousands of patients that we serve each and every day.”

Companies: UPMC / Richard King Mellon Foundation / University of Pittsburgh
People: Tom Wolf

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