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Elected officials, community members and University and industry leaders gathered on Hazelwood Green on Thursday to celebrate a major step forward for the regional life sciences industry: an agreement to form a 30-year strategic partnership between Pitt and biotech company ElevateBio to accelerate the development of highly innovative cell and gene therapies at Pitt BioForge.
Through this agreement, ElevateBio will collaborate with Pitt to locate one of its next BaseCamp process development and Good Manufacturing Practice facilities in Pittsburgh — continuing the movement toward positioning Pittsburgh as a hub for the life sciences.
“This announcement supports the region’s rise as a leader in cell and gene therapy and advances our vision of bringing an entirely new commercial manufacturing sector to the area,” said Pitt Chancellor Patrick Gallagher. “The University of Pittsburgh is proud to partner with ElevateBio in this work, which will see us leveraging lessons from the lab in new and exciting ways for the benefit of human health.”
“To realize our vision of transforming the cell and gene therapy field for decades to come, broadening our footprint across metropolitan areas is a key priority for us, and we are thrilled that the University of Pittsburgh will be home to one of our BaseCamp facilities,” said David Hallal, chair and CEO of ElevateBio. “We’ve identified Pittsburgh as an ideal location to extend our BaseCamp presence as it sits at the intersection of science, technology and talent. We are grateful for the support of the governor and county executive as we bring the first-of-its-kind offering we have built at ElevateBio BaseCamp to advance the work of the entire biopharmaceutical industry.”
The announcement was held Aug. 25 outside the Roundhouse at Hazelwood Green — a building created to service trains delivering materials for the steel industry that now houses coworking space for startups. Speakers included Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf sporting a blue-and-gold tie, Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey, Pennsylvania Rep. Aerion Andrew Abney and County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, along with key players from Pitt and ElevateBio and other leaders. The theme of the event: creating jobs and saving lives.
“We have some exceptional emerging research coming out of the University of Pittsburgh. However, the missing ingredient has been access to high-quality process science and manufacturing capabilities,” said Pitt Senior Vice Chancellor for the Health Sciences Anantha Shekhar. “As we position ourselves to become the next global hub for life sciences and biotech, we were in search of the right partner to help us realize our vision, and ElevateBio’s expertise and reputation in cell and gene therapy made them the perfect partner to accelerate our ability to build our biomanufacturing center of excellence.”
ElevateBio plans to lease 80,000 square feet of space from Pitt, expanding from its first site in Waltham, Massachusetts. The facility will include gene editing, induced pluripotent stem cell and cell, vector and protein engineering capabilities, with the company investing $35 million in the site’s operation, including equipment and training.
ElevateBio is targeted to move into the facility in 2026, and in total the partnership is expected to generate more than 170 permanent full-time jobs, 900 construction jobs and 360 off-site support jobs — along with lifesaving advances in the life sciences.
“We are excited that Pitt, working with UPMC Enterprises, has attracted ElevateBio to this region,” said Leslie Davis, president and CEO of UPMC. “The company’s expertise and manufacturing capabilities, combined with Pitt research and UPMC’s clinical excellence, are essential to delivering the life-changing therapies that people depend on UPMC to deliver.”
The Pitt BioForge Biomanufacturing Center was first announced with a $100 million grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation to the University of Pittsburgh in November 2021, the largest single-project grant in the foundation’s 75-year history. The proposed facility will host advanced manufacturing for therapeutics, currently a key bottleneck in the process of bringing lifesaving therapies to clinical trials.
“This partnership between two national life-science powerhouses — the University of Pittsburgh and ElevateBio — is a consequential step forward in realizing our shared vision to make Pittsburgh a national and international biomanufacturing destination,” said Sam Reiman, director of the Richard King Mellon Foundation. “Pitt BioForge is a generational opportunity to bring extraordinary economic-development benefits to our region and life-changing cell and gene therapies to patients — distribution that will be accelerated and enhanced by Pitt’s partnership with UPMC. ElevateBio could have chosen to locate its next biomanufacturing hub anywhere in the world; the fact they are choosing to come to Pittsburgh is another powerful validation of our region and the Pitt BioForge project at Hazelwood Green.”
In addition, the commonwealth and Allegheny County have provided incentive grants to ElevateBio in support of this partnership to build a biomanufacturing center and establish Pittsburgh as a premier biomanufacturing destination.
“This announcement is continued verification of Pittsburgh’s ability to attract new and emerging companies that provide economic opportunities in the life sciences field. The University of Pittsburgh and its medical school are a magnet for that ecosystem and along with this region’s quality of life and investment in innovation, we continue to see businesses choosing Pittsburgh,” said County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. “The creation of the Innovation District, and the many companies that call it home, continue to provide great opportunities for talent to fill jobs across the ecosystem’s pipeline. We welcome ElevateBio to our region and look forward to all that you will do here as part of this great ecosystem.”