The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services approved a $91 million influenza-vaccine manufacturing facility to be based in the Bryan-College Station area and run by the Texas A&M University System and GlaxoSmithKline, a global pharmaceutical company.
Speaking Tuesday at a news conference at the Texas Capitol, A&M System Chancellor John Sharp predicted that decades from now, the announcement would be remembered as "one of the most significant economic developments ever created in the state of Texas." The system predicts that the project will generate $41 billion in expenditures and more than 6,800 jobs for the state over the next 25 years.
Gov. Rick Perry, on hand for the announcement, said it was "fitting that this is coming to Texas." He cited innovations in Texas oilfields, NASA's work at the Johnson Space Center in Houston and the invention of the integrated circuit at Texas Instruments. "Texas is home to innovative minds and world-changing ideas," Perry said.
But why is this happening in College Station? As Brett Giroir, the system's vice chancellor for strategic initiatives, noted, "It's not exactly at the crossroads of Philadelphia and Brussels."
Last June, an A&M System-led team, which includes GSK, landed a roughly $285 million federal contract to develop one of three new national centers focused on developing and manufacturing medicine and vaccines to respond to pandemic diseases and bioterror threats.
The facility announced Tuesday will anchor what the team named the Texas A&M Center for Innovation in Advanced Development and Manufacturing. It will produce vaccines using a cell-culture process rather than the traditional, slower, egg-based process.
The efforts are expected to complement GSK's existing vaccine operations in Canada and Germany. The vaccines made in College Station will be packaged, inspected and distributed by the company's operations hub in Marietta, Penn.
Giroir said that Tuesday's announcement was about a decade in the making, but specific discussions with GSK about the facility began in 2010. And there were hints that there could be more to come from this partnership.
Antoon Loomans, a senior vice president and general counsel at GSK Vaccines, said of the new facility and working with the A&M System, "We want to use this to build on our platform, particularly in Texas."