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UPMC, Pitt to invest $200 million in immunotherapy research facility in Pittsburgh

| Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018, 1:00 p.m.
The inside of 5000 Baum Blvd., which is to be home to UPMC's new Immune Transplant and Therapy Center, on Feb. 13, 2018.
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
The inside of 5000 Baum Blvd., which is to be home to UPMC's new Immune Transplant and Therapy Center, on Feb. 13, 2018.
UPMC CEO Jeffrey A. Romoff addresses a news conference announcing plans for the UPMC-Pitt Immune Transplant and Therapy Center at 5000 Baum Blvd.
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
UPMC CEO Jeffrey A. Romoff addresses a news conference announcing plans for the UPMC-Pitt Immune Transplant and Therapy Center at 5000 Baum Blvd.
Guests walk into a news conference announcing plans for the UPMC Immune Transplant and Therapy Center at 5000 Baum Blvd. on Feb. 13, 2018.
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
Guests walk into a news conference announcing plans for the UPMC Immune Transplant and Therapy Center at 5000 Baum Blvd. on Feb. 13, 2018.
Guests listen as Pitt Chancellor Patrick Gallagher speaks during a news conference announcing plans for the UPMC Immune Transplant and Therapy Center at 5000 Baum Blvd. on Feb. 13, 2018.
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
Guests listen as Pitt Chancellor Patrick Gallagher speaks during a news conference announcing plans for the UPMC Immune Transplant and Therapy Center at 5000 Baum Blvd. on Feb. 13, 2018.
Pitt Chancellor Patrick Gallagher speaks during a news conference announcing plans for the UPMC Immune Transplant and Therapy Center at 5000 Baum Blvd. on Feb. 13, 2018.
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
Pitt Chancellor Patrick Gallagher speaks during a news conference announcing plans for the UPMC Immune Transplant and Therapy Center at 5000 Baum Blvd. on Feb. 13, 2018.
An artist's rendering depicts the UPMC Immune Transplant and Therapy Center at 5000 Baum Blvd. in Pittsburgh.
Submitted
An artist's rendering depicts the UPMC Immune Transplant and Therapy Center at 5000 Baum Blvd. in Pittsburgh.
Guests listen as Pitt Chancellor Patrick Gallagher speaks during a news conference announcing plans for the UPMC Immune Transplant and Therapy Center at 5000 Baum Blvd. on Feb. 13, 2018.
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
Guests listen as Pitt Chancellor Patrick Gallagher speaks during a news conference announcing plans for the UPMC Immune Transplant and Therapy Center at 5000 Baum Blvd. on Feb. 13, 2018.
UPMC CEO Jeffrey A. Romoff speaks at a news conference announcing plans for the UPMC Immune Transplant and Therapy Center at 5000 Baum Blvd. on Feb. 13, 2018.
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
UPMC CEO Jeffrey A. Romoff speaks at a news conference announcing plans for the UPMC Immune Transplant and Therapy Center at 5000 Baum Blvd. on Feb. 13, 2018.
Rebecca Bagley, Pitt's vice chancellor of economic partnerships, speaks at a news conference announcing plans for the UPMC Immune Transplant and Therapy Center at 5000 Baum Blvd. on Feb. 13, 2018.
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
Rebecca Bagley, Pitt's vice chancellor of economic partnerships, speaks at a news conference announcing plans for the UPMC Immune Transplant and Therapy Center at 5000 Baum Blvd. on Feb. 13, 2018.
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto speaks at a news conference announcing plans for the UPMC Immune Transplant and Therapy Center at 5000 Baum Blvd. on Feb. 13, 2018.
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto speaks at a news conference announcing plans for the UPMC Immune Transplant and Therapy Center at 5000 Baum Blvd. on Feb. 13, 2018.

The University of Pittsburgh and UPMC are teaming up in a $200 million venture to bolster immunotherapy research and potentially spur economic development throughout Western Pennsylvania.

The UPMC Immune Transplant and Therapy Center will be at 5000 Baum Blvd., a century-old, 200,000-square-foot building constructed by Ford Motor Co. that once served the dual purpose of assembly plant and showroom. When it opens in 2020, the center will focus on three areas: transplantation, cancer, and aging and chronic diseases.

"This will position Pittsburgh as a leader," Pitt Chancellor Patrick Gallagher said during a news conference.

Pitt and UPMC hope to advance immunotherapy research and develop drugs that can treat chronic illnesses brought on by aging, prevent rejection of transplanted organs and treat cancer patients.

The $200 million will be used for research and clinical trials. Pitt will renovate the building in partnership with Wexford Science+Technology, a Baltimore-based developer.

"This carries vividly the spirit of innovation and development," said Jeffrey Romoff, UPMC President and CEO. "This is a period of radical transformation in health care. Here we are looking at cutting-edge research."

UPMC unveiled plans in November to invest $2 billion to build three specialty hospitals in Pittsburgh focused on cancer, organ transplants, and heart and vision care.

Romoff said the hospitals will be built on the campuses of UPMC Presbyterian in Oakland, UPMC Mercy in Uptown and UPMC Shadyside.

With Pitt's research, UPMC's initial three-year funding commitment for ITTC seeks to accelerate the pace that medical teams can utilize new research.

"There are so many scientific advances, and we want to harness them," said Dr. Steve Shapiro, UPMC's chief medical and scientific officer. "This is very exciting."

In a series of tweets leading up to the announcement, UPMC and Pitt likened potential immunotherapy treatments to the polio vaccine and advancements of Dr. Thomas Starzl.

"The immune system is a critical part of the body and responds to challenges both inside and out," said Dr. Arthur S. Levine, Pitt's senior vice chancellor for the health sciences and John and Gertrude Petersen Dean of Medicine. "The only organ that is similar is the brain."

Rebecca Bagley, Pitt's vice chancellor of economic partnerships, said the building was chosen as the location for the center because of its close proximity to both the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center and the Pitt campus. The eight-story building will house labs, offices, startup companies and industry partners. It will create 2,000 jobs and is slated to open in 2020, she said.

The undertaking is Pitt's largest development project aimed at strengthening the city's so-called Innovation District. That effort is being spearheaded by the newly established InnovatePGH partnership after a report from Washington, D.C., think tank Brookings Institution said Pittsburgh could become a global innovation city by capitalizing on its assets in the life sciences.

"Brookings said we have great intellectual capital but have not yet cashed it in," Romoff said.

Dr. Robert Ferris, director of UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, said the immunotherapy facility and funding will help scientists bypass lengthy grant processes and speed up research.

"A grant can take years," he said. "This is real money that is not delayed. How many institutions are willing to devote well-earned resources into such a transformative idea to help accelerate progress? I think this is awfully rare and feel very fortunate."

Suzanne Elliott is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-871-2340, selliott@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Suzanne41. Ben Schmitt is a Tribune-Review assistant news editor. Reach him at 412-320-7991, bschmitt@tribweb.com or via Twitter at @Bencschmitt.

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