U Joins National Partnership Aimed at Expanding Biopharmaceutical Workforce and Industry

The University of Minnesota will join a team of academic institutions, private companies, governmental entities and non-profit organizations across the U.S. as a partner for the newly established National Institute for Innovation in Manufacturing Biopharmaceuticals (NIIMBL). NIIMBL, a public-private partnership supported by a $70M investment from the National Institute of Standards and Technology and at least $129M from other participants, aims to transform biopharmaceutical manufacturing in the U.S.

It is the eleventh institute in the Manufacturing USA program, a Department of Commerce initiative under the guidance of Former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker.

NIIMBL was announced by Secretary Pritzker in December 2016.

“This partnership will open doors to creating and supporting local biotechnology–related businesses,” says Vadim J. Gurvich, Ph.D., M.B.A., Associate Director of the Institute for Therapeutics Discovery and Development within the College of Pharmacy.

Gurvich is also a Masonic Cancer Center member.

Gurvich and six other researchers from the College of Science and Engineering, College of Pharmacy, College of Biological Sciences and Medical School will provide leadership for the University’s participation within the partnership.

They will leverage NIIMBL to develop novel manufacturing platforms, increase training and education in the biopharmaceutical sector, and expand the workforce within the state. They plan to primarily focus on manufacturing and formulation aspects of gene and cell-based therapies.

“NIIMBL is an exciting and innovative opportunity. We’ve brought together researchers from across the University with backgrounds in pharmacy, clinical care, basic science research and engineering. This group represents the whole spectrum of biomanufacturing, and can provide perspectives from bench to bedside,” said Wei-Shou Hu, Ph.D., Professor in the College of Science & Engineering’s Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science.

Additional researchers involved in NIIMBL include: Samira Azarin, Ph.D., Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Material ScienceR. Scott McIvor, Ph.D., Professor of Genetics, Cell Biology, and Development and Masonic Cancer Center member; David McKenna, M.D., Professor in the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology and Masonic Cancer Center member; Jakub Tolar, M.D., Ph.D., Professor in the Department of Pediatrics, Masonic Cancer Center member, and Director of the Stem Cell Institute; and Raj Suryanarayanan, Ph.D., Professor in the Department of Pharmaceutics.

With a strong history of success in medical device manufacturing and health care, Minnesota is well-equipped to foster an innovative biopharmaceutical sector. Down the road, that could attract new biotech companies to the state and increase high-paying job opportunities with the industry.

“This could also open doors to new research collaborations for University of Minnesota faculty,” Gurvich said. “Working with local companies, we can make a lasting impact right here in our state, to improve health and find new treatments for diseases like cancer and diabetes.”

Several state and private industry partners wrote letters of support for the partnership, including Governor Mark B. Dayton, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, and Medical Alley Association.

More details about its implementation here at the University are expected to come together later this Spring.

Read more about NIIMBL