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BioForge, the University of Pittsburgh’s massive life sciences innovation project in the Hazelwood neighborhood, is making progress on its mission to transform the region. Here’s what you need to know.
Trustees have approved construction
On June 12, a University of Pittsburgh Board of Trustees committee voted to approve the $120 million construction of the core and shell of the BioForge Biomanufacturing Center. In a separate vote, the Property and Facilities Committee authorized leasing space within the facility — where ElevateBio will become both a scientific partner for the University and the anchor tenant by operating a commercial gene and cell therapy biomanufacturing hub in the BioForge called Basecamp Pittsburgh.
These milestones advance the University’s vision to create a transformational life sciences ecosystem on the Hazelwood Green site that will create jobs and save lives.
Community meetings continue
“Pitt has been a collaborator in the greater Hazelwood community for more than 25 years. The next chapter of our work together will build community opportunity through the life sciences, catalyzed by the BioForge,” according to Lina Dostilio, vice chancellor of engagement and community affairs.
Dostilio and a handful of University leaders participated in a Hazelwood Initiative meeting Tuesday to discuss the upcoming project and existing community initiatives and services. This meeting was just one of many community meetings the group has participated in to discuss the BioForge facility and related Community Engagement Center (CEC) being developed in Hazelwood.
The CECs act like a front door to the University — open to visitors and community use — and establish a welcoming space to foster collaboration and house services, programs and staff dedicated to the neighborhood. The members of the CEC and BioForge will work together to create life sciences learning opportunities in pre-K-12 education, ensure workforce development and promote community development for residents of greater Hazelwood and beyond.
“Hazelwood steel helped to build the world,” said Kinsey Casey, associate vice chancellor for economic development in the health sciences. “With BioForge, therapies manufactured in Hazelwood will help save lives throughout the world.”
Construction is scheduled to begin in the fall
Site preparation is slated to start in late 2023. Building foundations and steel construction will then get under way in early 2024, with exterior construction scheduled to be complete in the first half of 2025.
BioForge is expected to generate hundreds of jobs, including a projected 900 construction jobs and 360 off-site support jobs. Notably, an estimated 170 well-paying, full-time jobs at Pitt BioForge are also expected, with half of those available to people with trade-school experience or community college degrees.
Additionally, such a life sciences manufacturing center could spur the introduction of new companies into the area, and those businesses would seek to hire people from the Hazelwood community, Mon Valley and greater Pittsburgh region as well.
The building is designed to cover 185,000 square feet and stand 67 feet tall, with two stories plus a penthouse. The construction will include two pocket parks, bike parking and integrated public art. University leaders are prioritizing sustainability and ensuring BioForge will be a LEED Gold building. The building will be roughly 25% used by Pitt and 75% by ElevateBio.
ElevateBio is on a roll
ElevateBio, a Massachusetts-based biotech company that develops cell and gene therapies, made headlines in May when it raised $401 million in the year’s largest venture capital deal for any biotech company.
ElevateBio’s Massachusetts BaseCamp facility is a state-of-the-art cell and gene therapy manufacturer, which works from concept through commercialization, all under a single roof. Already, ElevateBio officials are contributing ideas to the Pitt BioForge facility plans based on changing technology in the field.
As David Hallal, chair and CEO of ElevateBio, said at the anchor tenant announcement last August: “We’ve identified Pittsburgh as an ideal location to extend our BaseCamp presence as it sits at the intersection of science, technology and talent.”
— Nick France, photography by Tom Altany