Rensselaer will be part of a new $200 million public-private partnership to advance U.S. leadership in biopharmaceuticals. A $70 million award from the U.S. Commerce Department will establish the new National Institute for Innovation in Manufacturing Biopharmaceuticals (NIIMBL), complementing an initial private investment of at least $129 million from a consortium of more than 150 companies, educational institutions, nonprofits, and state governments.

NIIMBL, led by the University of Delaware, will advance U.S. leadership in the biopharmaceutical industry, foster economic development, improve medical treatments, and ensure a qualified workforce by collaborating with educational institutions to develop new training programs matched to specific biopharma skill needs.

Steve Cramer

Steve Cramer

“This is a powerful new partnership that is uniquely positioned to have a profound impact on the state of the art in biomanufacturing of protein biologics, and cell and gene therapeutics,” said Jonathan Dordick, vice president for research and the Howard P. Isermann ’42 Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering. “Rensselaer has a long and distinguished history of important contributions to the field of biomanufacturing, and as a key member of NIIMBL, we expect that Rensselaer researchers will play a significant role in many aspects of this institute.”

While traditional pharmaceutical production relies on chemistry to create medical treatments, biopharmaceutical production relies on biology—living cells produce the treatments or their components—which requires a complex manufacturing process. Biomanufacturing is used to produce many widely used treatments for a growing number of health conditions such as cancer, autoimmune disorders, and infectious diseases—and generates billions of dollars in revenue worldwide. However, innovation is needed to allow more rapid and flexible production to meet health-care demands and ensure U.S. leadership in the industry.

The institute will focus on bringing safe drugs to market faster and on developing workforce training. The biopharmaceutical field has a negative unemployment rate, with more jobs available than there are qualified workers.

Rensselaer is a “Tier 1” partner in the new NIIMBL and will play a large role in research projects, both in terms of defining national needs and performing research in collaboration with industry and other universities. Rensselaer will hold a seat on the NIIMBL Institute’s Governance Board, the only New York state-based university in that position.

“NIIMBL will play a seminal role in transforming biomanufacturing, including areas such as the development of novel therapeutic modalities, integrated biomanufacturing processes, and novel biosensor systems,” said Steven Cramer, Rensselaer lead investigator and the William Weightman Walker Professor of Polymer Engineering at Rensselaer. “We are extremely excited about the new opportunities this institute will present for the community of scholars in academia, industry, and the government who work in this critical technology area.”

Rensselaer has a long and distinguished history of important contributions to the field of biomanufacturing, and as a key member of NIIMBL, we expect that Rensselaer researchers will play a significant role in many aspects of this institute.”—Jonathan Dordick

Rensselaer’s expertise derives from its growth in biotechnology and the life sciences within the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies (CBIS).

“CBIS serves as the hub for basic and translational research in the biomanufacturing of protein pharmaceuticals, as well as in the design of new genetic and cellular systems that are making their way toward clinical studies,” said Deepak Vashishth, CBIS director.

“This new partnership will help provide the necessary resources to advance America’s manufacturing industry and help ensure our country remains globally competitive,” said U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. “NIIMBL has the potential to substantially enhance our domestic competitiveness in biopharmaceutical manufacturing and remains critical to our economy. I wrote to the Secretary of Commerce urging for this funding because the global biomanufacturing industry is poised for significant growth and job creation. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is one of New York’s best manufacturing institutions and it is well positioned to lead this consortium to help spark more growth in high-tech manufacturing sectors, jumpstart new businesses, and help create good-paying jobs right here at home.”

NIIMBL is the 11th institute in the Manufacturing USA network, public-private partnerships each with a distinct technology focus area and working toward a common goal—to secure America’s future through manufacturing innovation, education, and collaboration. It is the first institute with a focus area proposed by industry and the first funded by the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC).

“In communities from coast to coast, the Manufacturing USA network is breaking down silos between the U.S. private sector and academia to take industry-relevant technologies from lab to market,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, during an announcement on December 16. “The institute announced today is a resource that will spread the risks and share the benefits across the biopharmaceutical industry of developing and gaining approval for innovative processes. The innovations created here will make it easier for industry to scale up production and provide the most ground-breaking new therapies to more patients sooner.”

“Rensselaer is a great source of pride for our area and plays a large role in cementing the Capital Region’s reputation of sitting on the cutting edge of innovation and technology,” said U.S. Representative Paul Tonko. “This will help RPI to continue to play that role in a larger capacity. I thank Dr. Dordick and his team for their tireless efforts to make announcements like this possible. I was proud to support this funding opportunity in a letter to Secretary Pritzker, and I look forward to seeing the enhanced workforce training and job development this support will bring to our communities.”

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