University of Pittsburgh Gets a $100 Million Grant to Transform the Region into a Life Sciences Powerhouse

Patrick Gallagher

PITTSBURGH – The University of Pittsburgh and Richard King Mellon Foundation announced a $100 million gift that will advance the region’s burgeoning life sciences economy by creating an anchor bioresearch and development facility on Hazelwood Green, the sprawling former industrial site near Downtown Pittsburgh being restored into a center for high-tech innovation and an engine for community growth.

With the gift — the largest single-project gift in the Foundation’s history — Pitt will create the University of Pittsburgh BioForge, a highly specialized biomanufacturing facility that 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. It will also deliver easy access to Pitt’s established research environment and UPMC’s clinical activities.

Combined with the University’s own financial commitment and funding from industry partners, the 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. The project will also create new opportunities and connections in Hazelwood and among surrounding communities.

“The Richard King Mellon Foundation’s gift is nothing short of transformative, and it paves the way for the University of Pittsburgh and UPMC to establish a world-class biomanufacturing hub at Hazelwood Green,” said Chancellor Patrick Gallagher. “I am grateful for this support and confident that we’ll succeed — together — in strengthening Southwestern Pennsylvania’s role as a leading life sciences destination.”

Said Richard King Mellon Foundation Director Sam Reiman: “The Foundation is making a historic bet on Pittsburgh to lead nationally in the life sciences. 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.”

“The University of Pittsburgh’s extraordinary research capabilities are nationally renowned and will serve as a powerful launching pad for medical discovery, and an engine for private-sector economic growth,” said Reiman. “Our longtime partners at UPMC are perfectly positioned to deploy those discoveries to improve the health and well-being of our communities. And 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.”

Pitt remains committed to working closely with community partners to develop plans that ensure much of the economic benefit remains in the Mon Valley. In particular, both the University and the Richard King Mellon Foundation maintain a strong commitment to working with members of the Hazelwood community to ensure that employment opportunities and related economic activity make a positive impact in the neighborhood surrounding the project. Earlier this year, Pitt announced that it had received funding from the Richard King Mellon Foundation to support the formation of the Pittsburgh Life Sciences Alliance, a new membership-based nonprofit that will develop, promote and oversee a life sciences strategy to drive growth in Southwestern Pennsylvania.