University of Pittsburgh BioForge Biomanufacturing Center approved to begin construction through 2025


University of Pittsburgh Board of Trustees approved construction with a June 12, 2023, vote to approve the initial $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 Massachusetts-based 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.

Community meetings continued thereafter, and construction is slated to begin in the fall of 2023, with building foundations and steel construction slated to be underway in early 2024, and exterior construction scheduled to be complete in the first half of 2025.

Updated as of September 19, 2023: Public Source and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that the University of Pittsburgh has received the green light to build the  now planned $250 million, 185,000-square-foot biomanufacturing facility at Hazelwood Green. The city's Planning Commission approved the project at its regular meeting on Tuesday, and Pitt now embarks on building that vice chancellor for planning, design, and construction at Pitt describes as striving to "physically manifest the exciting, regionally transformative program it contains."

The City Planning Commission approved a proposal for a 68-foot-tall building totaling 185,000 square feet. The approval continues the high tech redevelopment of the 178-acre area known as Hazelwood Green, which includes the neighboring Mill 19, housing Carnegie Mellon University's Manufacturing Futures Institute, and a nearby site for which CMU recently received commission approval to build a robotics laboratory.

Architecture firm HOK expects construction of the BioForge facility to begin later this year and to be completed by mid-2025.

At the meeting, executive director of Pitt's Engaged Campus, Jamilah Ducar, emphasized the university's community outreach efforts saying, "Pitt has a long history of outreach with the Hazelwood community going back to 2000," and that in the process of holding community meetings, Pitt found that the primary concern from residents is "broad economic inclusion," continuing to say "to that end, we've worked diligently on workforce development" and that as a result of this outreach and training efforts, Hazelwood residents will be prepared for the new job opportunities coming to the area.

Only one member of the public voiced their opinion during the commission's hearing process, a retired resident of Hazelwood who said he was happy to see that the new facility would complement Mill 19, and that, "We as a community are very, very interested in seeing the dynamics of how everything is choreographed. We don't want to lose the genuineness of that site."

Pictured: Pitt presented renderings of its planned BioForge facility to the City Planning Commission on Tuesday, September 5. Photo courtesy of Public Source.

About the project: A $100 million gift from the Richard King Mellon Foundation to the University of Pittsburgh will support the creation of the University of Pittsburgh BioForge, a highly specialized biomanufacturing facility at Hazelwood Green. BioForge will help bring new cell and gene therapies and other novel treatments to patients and the marketplace, and will offer high-tech manufacturing capabilities, wet lab, and other innovation and incubation space.

Pitt BioForge is expected to turn the region's life sciences corridor into a global destination for investors and innovators, bringing together clinical, research and academic capabilities to offer ripe opportunities for both early-stage and established companies to advance medical progress.

Current plans for Pitt BioForge envision a facility of approximately 150,000 - 200,000 square feet, which will be equipped to perform the most advanced biomanufacturing processes and other innovative development, with the purpose of bringing every stage of the life sciences innovation process under one roof. Pitt research already underway and poised to relocate to BioForge includes gene and engineered cell therapy, microneedle and other novel therapeutics and delivery technologies, and the development of micro- and nano-antibodies.

“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.

“Hazelwood Green is the ideal place to do this work. Coupled with our $75 million gift to Carnegie Mellon University for robotics and advanced manufacturing at Hazelwood Green — and thanks to the steadfast commitment of our Almono partners, the Heinz Endowments and the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation — this is one of the final puzzle pieces in our efforts to make Hazelwood Green truly different than other riverside developments. This project will help make our vision for Hazelwood Green come to life: a magnet for sustainable growth and an engine for prosperity for our partner communities.”