Maryland mulls 'vaccine manufacturing capital of the world' dream

By Gregory Roumeliotis

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Biotechnology

Bruised by Novartis's snub over a $600m (€466m) vaccine plant,
Maryland has commissioned a study on what more the state can do to
attract a major cell culture vaccine manufacturing facility there.

Although the study has not yet been released, has learned that in its findings the report suggests that the city of Baltimore and the state of Maryland will need to work much harder to attract biotech investment given the financial incentives that other states provide.

The state had been in the running with North Carolina and Georgia for Novartis's plant, which will be the first facility in the US to use novel cell culture technology, but Aris Melissaratos, Maryland's secretary of the Department of Business and Economic Development, said that other states were willing to give away free land and so Maryland couldn't compete with that sweetener given this region's high real estate prices.

Nevertheless, the state still has several firms that have committed to building manufacturing plants there, such as MedImmune and Emergent BioSolutions, yet the selection of North Carolina by Novartis stroke a raw nerve among those who have higher aspirations for Maryland.

"Maryland is doing exactly what it can and should be doing to attract more biotech firms and the vaccine feasibility study is a prime example,"​ Morgan Wallace, of the Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore, the organisation behind the report, told

"Through the close working relationship that has been forged between the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development (DBED) and Greater Baltimore's city and county economic development entities, we are constantly assessing our approach and our competitive advantages in terms of attracting biotech investment to this area."

The report however mentions areas where Maryland is lagging behind, and although officials will not go into details, it is understood that high wages, apart from financial incentives such as taxbreaks, are also weighing down on the state's competitiveness.

The competitive advantage that Maryland does have in biologics R&D and production is derived from three main areas: workforce, innovation, and resources.

Maryland's workforce is top-ranked for doctoral scientists and engineers with over 85,000 in the region, and home to many established biomanufacturing training programmes.

As far as innovation is concerned, Maryland is unrivaled; the state has one of the largest biosciences clusters in the US, with more than 350 biotechnology companies.

"The report mentions several distinct areas in which Maryland is more competitive than other states in terms of attracting biotech investment,"​ Wallace said.

"Overall, the study reinforces why Maryland continues to rank very high in terms of biotech attraction and investment in what remains an extremely competitive environment."

In regards to specific manufacturing resources, Maryland has a wealth of good manufacturing practice (GMP) related technologies and capabilities, including a GMP training center at the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute (UMBI) and a pilot GMP facility at the NIH's Vaccine Research Center.

Still much of the report's suggestions could eventually boil down to money - according to Melissaratos, Maryland lost the Novartis plant because other states offered incentives that were five times what Maryland was prepared to offer.

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