Texas A&M joins chase for $1.2B biosecurity program

Texas A&M has created a team of scientists, researchers and clinicians to pursue a $1.2 billion HHS "biosecurity" contract. Winning the bid would mean creating a biosecurity center to develop countermeasures for public health threats like pandemic flu or other outbreaks, university officials said yesterday.

The university has partnered with some biotech heavyweights, including vaccine makers GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals and Bavarian Nordic, as well as biotechnology equipment company Sartorius, according to coverage in The Eagle. It also has joined with major medical centers including Texas Children's Hospital, Texas Biomedical Research Institute and others, notes the San Antonio Business Journal.

A&M officials say they'll have a competitive advantage as they vie for the contract, having just created a National Center for Therapeutics Manufacturing institute. It's a key move, as HHS's request for proposal requires bid winners--possibly as many as two or three--to collectively be able to create 50 million doses of a pandemic flu vaccine in four months, Brett Giroir, the A&M System's vice chancellor for strategic initiatives told The Eagle. This bid is the first major outreach of A&M's National BioSecurity Foundation, created last September.

The project could be worth "hundreds of millions of dollars up front in federal investment, and a 25-year potential commitment," Giroir also told The Eagle. He adds that recent estimates from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, which is also vying for the contract, predict the project could create as many as 1,000 jobs directly, and another 6,000 indirectly.

Some of the contract's big value will come from the construction of the manufacturing facility, which the federal government will co-fund with the A&M team, and co-own throughout the construction process, The Eagle reports. Once the buildings are complete, however, ownership will be turned over to the private partners.

A&M plans to submit its 1,000-page RFP response in late June. In the meantime, city officials in Bryan, Texas, where the facility would be built on a 147-acre tract of land, are negotiating tax issues and infrastructure cost-sharing to create a proposed "Research Valley Biocorridor" around the facility.

To learn more:
- read The Eagle story
- check out the San Antonio Business Journal article
- read more about A&M's National Biosecurity Foundation