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UPMC shelves Hazelwood vaccine factory plan

UPMC is halting its plans to build a vaccine factory in Hazelwood, a hospital spokeswoman said this morning.

The long-proposed factory, high-profile project was expected to produce vaccines to counter biological warfare agents such as smallpox.

UPMC officials said their strategy differs from that of the federal government, which would have paid for about half the project. The government wants to save money by using an existing commercial facility that also could be used for production of non-commercial products, said Robert Cindrich, a senior advisor to UPMC President Jeff Romoff.

"Our strategy was to create an innovative facility fully dedicated to the government's needs for non-commercial vaccines to protect the nation from bioterrorism and pandemic diseases," Cindrich said. "Unfortunately, the request for proposals recently released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services cannot be reconciled with the approach and would greatly increase the risks for UPMC."

Cindrich said the government's request includes no guaranteed orders.

Officials at Health and Human Services could not immediately be reached.

The health system considered several sites for the factory but this year selected the former LTV steel mill in Hazelwood. The site was chosen because of its location near academic institutions. Lawmakers estimated the factory could have created more than 1,000 permanent jobs.

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