Gov. Kelly views economic development project as game changer
by Tim Carpenter, Kansas Reflector
Manhattan, Kansas — Gov. Laura Kelly spearheaded the announcement Monday of an agreement for construction of a $650 million, 500-employee manufacturing facility supporting development of vaccines to counter global biological threats.
The 500,000-square-foot Scorpion Biological Services facility in proximity to Kansas State University and the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility represented significant expansion of biopharmaceutical operations through parent company Heat Biologics of Morrisville, North Carolina. Manhattan and Kansas State beat out the other prominent bidder for the commercial plant — Iowa City and the University of Iowa.
“There is a strong demand for world-class biomanufacturing, which we expect will continue well into the future,” said David Halverson, president of Scorpion Biological. “Powered by an excellent Kansas workforce, we’re looking forward to rapidly growing and expanding Scorpion.”
Scorpion Biological, based in San Antonio, Texas, is expected to grow employment at the Manhattan facility to 500 within seven years. The company is finishing construction of a smaller clinical scale biologic manufacturing facility in San Antonio.
Gov. Kelly, who has touted her record in office in terms of economic development, said the Scorpion Biological project was a “game-changing facility that will have a massive positive impact in our state.”
“Being in the center of the country with quick access to either coast, there is no better state for Scorpion to locate in order to address potential threats to public health,” the governor said.
Scorpion Biological supports drug development from conception through clinical trials and commercial production in an effort to bring products to market faster and more reliably. A point of emphasis at Scorpion Biological is expanding reach of precision medicine for untreatable or treatment-resistant ailments.
The Kansas Department of Commerce said Scorpion Biological qualified for a package of state economic development incentives used to attract large employers the state.
“It’s absolutely critical that we, as a nation, increase our capacity for domestic production of these types of vaccines and we are extremely proud to see this work happen here in Kansas,” said David Toland, secretary of the Department of Commerce and the state’s lieutenant governor.
The project was a partnership with K-State, Kansas State University Innovation Partners, the city of Manhattan, Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, Pottawatomie County and the county’s economic development arm, Manhattan Area Technical College and several private companies.
The combination of a public research university and private-sector partners was important to the site selection decision, officials said.
“This facility represents the next stage in our evolution, enabling us to combine speed and agility with the full integration of discovery, development and manufacturing,” said Jeff Wolf, founder and chief executive officer of Heat Biologics.
Wolf also founded Seed-One Ventures, a firm focused on the formation and management of new biomedical companies; co-founder of Avigen, a NASDAQ-listed gene therapy company; co-founder of TyRx Pharma, focused on the development of biocompatible polymers; and co-founder of EluSys Therapeutics, a biodefense company concentrating on a medical countermeasure to anthrax exposure after a natural incident or intentional attack.
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