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A&M System receives biodefense grant

Published: Monday, June 18, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 20:07

A multimillion-dollar contract was awarded to the Texas A&M University System Monday to develop a center for developing vaccines to protect against pandemics and threats of bioterrorism.

Texas A&M’s Center for Innovation in Advanced Development and Manufacturing will be home of one of three biodefense centers across the nation.

The second center announced was Emergent Manufacturing Operations Baltimore LLC in Maryland in affiliation with Michigan State University, Kettering University in Michigan and the University of Maryland in Baltimore. Pharmaceutical company Novartis in North Carolina, in partnership with North Carolina State University and Duke University, will lead the third center. Texas A&M’s center is the only one led by a public university system.

System Chancellor John Sharp and Board of the Regents Chairman Richard Box held a press conference in Austin to coincide with a press conference held by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in Washington D.C. The department issued a request for bids March 30, 2011.

Health and Human
Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said during the press conference, “The threats we face today as a nation are constantly evolving… [The centers are] a dramatic step forward in ensuring that the United States can produce life-saving countermeasures quickly and nimbly.”

The University will receive $176.6 million from the federal government and $109 million from commercial and academic partners.

Sharp said, “This is one of the biggest federal grants to come to Texas since NASA was placed here some years ago.”

Pharmaceutical company, GlaxoSmithKline, the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, along with more than 20 researchers nationwide will assist the System with the center’s initiatives.

According to a System news release, initiatives include developing and manufacturing vaccines to protect against pandemic influenza, providing therapies in the event of chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear threats, and training the next generation of professionals.

“We have long served our nation and risen to defend our country against national security threats,” said Sharp. “Our selection for this center reflects that tradition and means we are enhancing the nation’s ability to counter biological and pandemic threats, both known and unknown... We are honored to be selected and to have the Texas A&M’s System unique capabilities leveraged to meet critical 21st-century challenges.”

The contract is for 25 years, yet only the first five-and-a-half are guaranteed.

Significant economic opportunities will be brought to Texas as a result of this contract. System Vice Chancellor of Marketing and Communications Steven Moore said the center will be a boom to the local economy and impact Brazos Valley for many years to come.

The center will be located along the Bryan-College Station border and will be fully functional in December 2015. Vice Chancellor for Strategic Initiatives Brett Giror is the principal manager of this effort and Moore said Giror begins work on the facilities tomorrow.

“We celebrate instantly and then get straight to work,” Moore said.

Local officials have been swift in their praise of the System’s efforts.

U.S. Congressman Bill Flores said, “With this contract, critical capabilities will be achieved, and the next generation of medical researchers will be prepared to meet biological threats that our nation may face in the future.”


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