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NIIMBL gets $9M to lead expansion of COVID-19 testing, diagnostics

Katie Tabeling

NEWARK — The National Institute for Innovation in Manufacturing Biopharmaceuticals (NIIMBL) received a $9 million boost in federal funding while the country looks to the future coronavirus vaccine.

NIIMBL, a partnership between federal, university and industry members to advance research of medicines made of cells, received the grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology in the U.S. Department of Commerce last week.

U.S. Sen. Chris Coons talks with reporters Tuesday during a visit to Indutex USA, which is distributing millions of sought-after medical masks. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

U.S. Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) applauded NIIMBL’s successful grant, noting the funding would help Delaware-based scientists and engineers expand testing and diagnostic capabilities, address supply chain vulnerabilities, and improve vaccine manufacturing capacity.

“The scary truth is that the United States is currently not ready to mass produce a vaccine for COVID-19, even once we’ve developed one, and that’s a problem we need to fix right away,” Coons said in a prepared statement. “We need to expand our vaccine manufacturing capacity here in the United States dramatically, and we need to do it now. I’m thrilled that Delaware scientists and engineers at NIIMBL will be leading that effort.”

Headquartered at University of Delaware’s STAR Campus in Newark, NIIMBL supports research from 130 members in industry, education, nonprofits, and states. Industry partners include Merck & Co., Pfizer, AstraZeneca among others.

In addition to research at UD, the institute supports research from Massachusetts Institute for Technology, Johns Hopkins University, Carnegie Mellon University, North Carolina State University, University of Maryland and others.

While the pandemic and the global crisis creates immense challenges ahead, NIIMBL Director and Manufacturing USA Directors Council Chair Kelvin Lee said that manufacturers were up to the task.

Kelvin Lee
NIIMBL Director

“We have the ingenuity, grit and expertise to find new ways to produce what we need to regain America’s health, build the critical manufacturing supply chain, and strengthen our ability to respond swiftly and effectively to future challenges,” Lee said in a prepared statement. “These awards … are a step in the right direction for us to do just that.”

NIIMBL is on track to spend $70 million in federal funding after 2021. Thanks to an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that was passed in December, the organization’s limit on future federal funding was lifted, pending a performance review every five years.

NIIMBL has been able to leverage more than $125 million in investment from private partners.

In mid-May, NIIMBL announced funding for 14 projects with a total value of $10 million, and two projects were selected as part of the Global Health Fund in partnership with The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

To date, NIIMBL’s portfolio includes 71 projects valued at $63 million in investment since 2017.

-Katie Tabeling


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