Kansas wins contract for construction of $650-million biomanufacturing plant

By Jenny LescohierApril 20, 2022

A $650-million biomanufacturing facility is set for construction near Manhattan, KS, bringing with it the promise of 500 new jobs and a whole lot of construction for years to come.

The 500,000-square-foot Scorpion Biological Services facility in close proximity to Kansas State University, the Biosecurity Research Institute, the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility and the U.S. Army at Fort Riley, represents a significant expansion of biopharmaceutical operations under the umbrella of Heat Biologics

According to reports, building a new pharmaceutical manufacturing facility can generally cost up to $2 billion and take five to 10 years to complete. 

The Kansas Reflector reported that Heat Biologics founder Jeff Wolf said he considers construction of the commercial vaccine production plant focused on quick reaction to natural or man-made biological threats to be a U.S. national security imperative.

Demand is heating up in the life sciences industry, but there are still challenges for developers and contractors interested in breaking into the sector. Lab science buildings are different from typical office construction, for example, since they require very specialized, built-in infrastructure. The need for chemicals and chemical storage, clean room spaces, special ventilation and fireproofing systems, as well as extra power and emergency generators, complicate the construction process.

And not every setting is conducive to such projects.

In the case of the latest Scorpion Biological’s project, Manhattan and Kansas State beat out the other prominent bidder for the commercial plant — Iowa City and the University of Iowa.

“The Covid pandemic and recent geopolitical events highlight the urgent need for rapid response to potential biological threats,” Wolf was quoted. “Today’s announcement is a major milestone, enhancing our domestic production of vital biologics to protect Americans from deadly disease.”

Gov. Laura Kelly told media during the announcement program that Manhattan and Kansas was well-positioned to support Scorpion Biological’s strategy to broaden domestic production of cell- and gene-based medical countermeasures.

“Being in the center of the country with quick access to either coast, there is no better state for Scorpion to locate in order to address potential threats to public health,” the governor said.

Kelly said the Scorpion Biological project was a “game-changing facility that will have a massive positive impact in our state.” Scorpion Biological is expected to cumulatively have a $1-billion impact on the Kansas economy, reports said.

Scorpion Biological, based in San Antonio, Texas, is expected to grow employment at the Manhattan facility to 500 within seven years. The jobs will have an average wage of $75,000. The manufacturing building will be located next to a business park on U.S. Highway 24 east of Manhattan on ground expected to be annexed into the city.

“There is a strong demand for world-class biomanufacturing, which we expect will continue well into the future,” David Halverson, president of Scorpion Biological, was quoted. “Powered by an excellent Kansas workforce, we’re looking forward to rapidly growing and expanding Scorpion.”

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