Cutting Edge Pitt Research Facility is Latest Addition to Hazelwood Green

Find out what else is being developed at this tech innovation hub at a former industrial site near Downtown.
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BioForge may sound like something out of a science fiction novel, but it’s very real — and it’s coming to Hazelwood Green.

The Richard King Mellon Foundation this week made its largest single-project donation in history, with $100 million going to the University of Pittsburgh. The money will help fund BioForge, a roughly 200,000-square-foot building for Pitt researchers to advance life sciences research. 

Some current research is poised to relocate to the BioForge facility once it’s built, including work with gene and engineered cell therapy, microneedle and other novel therapeutics, delivery technologies and the development of micro- and nano-antibodies.

“The Foundation is making a historic bet on Pittsburgh to lead nationally in the life sciences. If COVID-19 taught us anything, it’s that we need to discover and manufacture health care advances right here at home,” said Richard King Mellon Foundation Director Sam Reiman in a press release. “And we are even more eager to lead in this sector because of its potential to generate family-sustaining job opportunities that are accessible to all our communities.”

BioForge is still in its earliest stages of development — it isn’t expected to be operational for another five years, and the exact details about where in Hazelwood Green it will be and how many it will employ are still being sorted out. 

Nevertheless, Pitt and the foundation are already thinking big. The facility will be equipped to deal with advanced biomanufacturing projects and conduct cutting-edge life sciences research across multiple disciplines. It isn’t about making pills or other medications; rather, BioForge will work with materials like cells and monoclonal antibodies, like those being used to treat COVID-19.

It also will serve as an incubator for other life science start-ups, bringing more opportunities for this type of work to the Pittsburgh region and fostering the work that’s already being done here.

“Pittsburgh is poised to become the next global hub for life sciences and biotech,” said Anantha Shekhar, Pitt senior vice chancellor for the health sciences, in a press release. “The talent we have in this region is unmatched. This gift from the Richard King Mellon Foundation will allow us to create a space-based strategy for all that talent to flourish and engage in cutting-edge research. Our shared vision for building a meds and eds innovation engine with UPMC, industry and the Hazelwood community will spur new solutions and opportunities for generations to come.”

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Hazelwood Green, a former industrial site near Downtown, is in the process of being developed into a tech innovation hub while still remaining grounded in the principles of sustainability, equity and inclusive economic opportunity, according to its website. It occupies 178 acres along the Monongahela River in Hazelwood, and Pitt says it’s committed to making sure much of the economic benefit to stem from BioForge remains in the Mon Valley.

Both Pitt and the foundation will be working with members of the Hazelwood community to ensure that the project has a positive impact on the neighborhood and the folks who call it home.

“Hazelwood Green is the ideal place to do this work. Coupled with our $75 million gift to Carnegie Mellon University for robotics and advanced manufacturing at Hazelwood Green … this is one of the final puzzle pieces in our efforts to make Hazelwood Green truly different than other riverside developments,” Reiman added. “This project will help make our vision for Hazelwood Green come to life: a magnet for sustainable growth and an engine for prosperity for our partner communities.”

Most of the site is owned by Almono LP, which is made up of the Richard King Mellon Foundation, the Heinz Endowments and the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, according to PublicSource

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Other goals for the area include updating the historic Mill 19, which was built around 1943 to house munitions production during World War II. After the war, it became a rolling mill, producing steel. But today, in its original skeleton, it’s occupied by multiple tenants — Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM), CMU’s Manufacturing Futures Initiative  and Catalyst Connections — all with a focus on A.I., automation, robotics or other tech initiatives. 

The 10-bay Roundhouse, originally built around 1887 by the Monongahela Connecting Railroad, has been occupied by OneValley, whose mission is to support entrepreneurs and foster innovation around the world.

Development also includes The Plaza, a 2-acre public space touted as “the civic heart” of the site.

Categories: The 412