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Groundbreaking ushers in new era for Biotech Center

A groundbreaking ceremony on the campus of the Pennsylvania Biotechnology Center Sept. 17 launched a $19 million expansion project that will increase not only office and laboratory space but could add 100 new jobs to the center, which already employs over 300 highly skilled scientists, staff and students.

State grants of $4.4 million have already been directed to the project, according to Pennsylvania Sen. Steve Santarsiero, who was present along with U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, state Rep. Wendy Ullman, and Bucks County Commissioners Diane M. Ellis-Marseglia and Robert J. Harvie Jr.
PABC founder, President and CEO Timothy M. Block, said the new 37,000-square-foot two-story building will provide 15,000 square feet of laboratory space, a 200-seat venue for events, and office and conference room space, increasing workspace at the center by 40 percent. The new facility will connect two existing structures.
The Biotech Center has over 70 member companies affiliated with it, 41 of which conduct operations on the campus. Two new FDA-approved pharmaceutical therapies and two new medical devices have been produced by member companies, with more prospective therapies now in clinical trials.
The contribution of entrepreneurs affiliated with the Biotech Center have created over $2 billion in company value. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 400 researchers, students and support staff worked at the center.
A featured addition to the new facility will be the Hatch BioFund BioAccelerator Program, which will provide seed capital and facility space to concept-stage companies – essentially an incubator growing existing talent and resources into innovative biotech ventures.
Rep Ullman said that beyond just an “incredible source of employment” to the county, “the impact of the center has been so much greater.”
“This has been a bipartisan project,” said Commissioner Harvie of the effort that began a decade and a half ago. “This is really where politics stops.” He said the center would provide a “mixture of groundbreaking science” and job potential.
Pennsylvania Biotech Center Executive Vice President Lou Kassa kicked a ceremonial football with a caveat. “I was one for three in practice and I hit the uprights twice.”
In August, the Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development’s (DCED) Office of Technology and Innovation gave the center $430,000 to develop laboratory space for COVID-19 research. The efforts include COVID-19 vaccine development as well as treatments and therapies.
Projects directed at addressing the pandemic include “iminovirs” which target replication of the virus, direct-acting antivirals, artificial “antibodies” called minibodies to block the ability of the virus to bind to target cells, and interferon-induced cellular proteins that can render cells resistant to infection.