Pitt receives $100 million grant to develop biomanufacturing facility

A $100 million gift to Pitt from the Richard K. Mellon Foundation to advance the region’s burgeoning life sciences economy was certainly the biggest, but not the only, announcement this week of large new programs at the University.

Pitt BioForge

The Mellon Foundation grant — the nonprofit’s largest single-project investment in its 74-year history — will be disbursed in $10 million increments over 10 years to help build a highly specialized bioresearch and development facility on Hazelwood Green, the sprawling former industrial site near downtown Pittsburgh being restored into a center for high-tech innovation. 

Called Pitt BioForge, this 200,000 to 250,000-square-foot facility will leverage the biomedical research conducted at Pitt and the clinical care offered at UPMC. This project will bring an entirely new commercial manufacturing sector to Pittsburgh and, if all goes according to plan, increase the economic opportunity for residents and families in and around Hazelwood.  

“The University of Pittsburgh is a leader in biomedical research, but we could not have made this leap without the Richard King Mellon Foundation’s transformational gift,” said Chancellor Patrick Gallagher. “The poetic symmetry of building the future of manufacturing in the shadows of an old steel mill isn’t lost on us — or anyone in Pittsburgh. We were the city that built the world. Now Pittsburgh can be the city that heals the world.”

The highly specialized biomanufacturing facility will help bring new cell and gene therapies and other novel treatments to patients and the marketplace. Pitt BioForge will offer the University’s research teams, as well as commercial and research partners high-tech manufacturing capabilities, wet lab and other innovation and incubation space.

“The foundation is making a historic bet on Pittsburgh to lead nationally in the life sciences,” said Richard King Mellon Foundation Director Sam Reiman. “If COVID-19 taught us anything, it’s that we need to discover and manufacture health care advances right here at home. And we are even more eager to lead in this sector because of its potential to generate family-sustaining job opportunities that are accessible to all our communities.”

Read more about the project in Pittwire.

Orange Grove

Earlier in the week, Pitt announced a collaboration with Orange Grove Bio, a preclinical drug investment and development firm, to advance the development and commercialization of novel therapeutics by supporting the translation of scientific discoveries made by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh. The newly established partnership aims to cultivate the Pittsburgh biotech landscape by increasing entrepreneurship, education, and scientific translation of promising technologies. These efforts will be focused in the areas of oncology and autoimmune and inflammatory diseases.

“University of Pittsburgh innovators have a strong track record of achieving impact for their research through commercial translation,” Joe Havrilla, associate vice chancellor for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, said in a news release. “This new collaboration with Orange Grove Bio will allow us to further our commercialization efforts and we look forward to the positive impact it will have for our faculty and students and ultimately for patients.”

Under terms of the partnership, Orange Grove Bio will provide commercialization guidance and support to Pitt’s Innovation Institute, an internship program for the University’s Ph.D. students, and educational seminars for primary investigators and researchers at Pitt.

Orange Grove CEO Marc Appel told the Post-Gazette that the BioForge project will be complementary to the company’s work at Pitt and the city’s evolution into a biotech hub.

Read more about the deal in the Post-Gazette.