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NIIMBL funding limit lifted by Congress

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A federal funding limit on NIIMBL has been removed under a new spending bill passed by Congress and signed by President Trump. | Photo courtesy of NIIMBL

NEWARK ““ The federal funding limit for the National Institute for Innovation in Manufacturing Biopharmaceuticals (NIIMBL) was eliminated through legislation approved by Congress in December.

NIIMBL, which brings together federal, university and industry partners to advance research into the medicines made of cells, is headquartered at the University of Delaware’s STAR Campus in Newark. It is set to move into space within the new six-story, $160 million Biopharmaceutical Innovation Building on the campus early in 2020.

U.S. Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) announced Dec. 17 that the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) conference report approved by the Senate included his bipartisan bill to eliminate a federal funding limit for NIIMBL. Instead of a strict funding window, the legislation now requires that entities such as NIIMBL undergo a performance review every five years before additional funding is allocated.

Cosponsored by nine other U.S. senators from both the Republican and Democratic parties, the amendment was called the Global Leadership in Advanced Manufacturing Act, or GLAM Act. The House of Representatives approved the bill Dec. 11 and President Donald Trump signed the NDAA on Dec. 20.

Currently slated to exhaust a stream of $70 million federal dollars after 2021, NIIMBL would be able to receive future federal funding under the approved bill. The organization’s backing by the National Institute of Standards and Technology in the U.S. Department of Commerce enabled it to leverage more than $125 million in investment from private partners.

Sen. Chris Coons

Sen. Coons

“It brings me great pride that Delawareans are leading the world in the development, testing, and production of medicines of the future,” Coons said in a statement announcing the bill’s approval. “With this bill, and the vital federal funding opportunity it creates, Delaware’s innovators will continue to not only save lives, but also create jobs for generations of high-skilled Delawareans who will manufacture these lifesaving drugs. Also, other states are empowered to follow Delaware’s lead by forming new institutes specializing in other vital areas of manufacturing.”

NIIMBL supports research from 130 members coming from industry, academic institutes, nonprofit organizations, and states. Aside from UD, the institute also supports research being done by Massachusetts Institute for Technology, Johns Hopkins University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Carnegie Mellon University, North Carolina State University, University of Maryland, and more. Private companies involved in the effort include Merck & Co., Pfizer, AstraZeneca, and more.

In August, NIIMBL approved support of 15 projects with a total value of about $9 million, of which about $4.3 million came from NIIMBL and the remainder contributed by participating organizations. With the addition of those nine technology and six talent development projects, NIIMBL’s portfolio totals 58 projects with a total investment reaching nearly $58 million since 2017.

The highly technical work deals with the development of vaccines, gene therapies and cancer treatment drugs ““ and could lead to new high-wage jobs being created in Delaware due to the university’s involvement, Coons’ office reported.

“Passage of this act continues our country’s investment in U.S. advanced manufacturing competitiveness, supports our long-term leadership in innovation, and also helps drive key activities in Delaware related to the bioeconomy,” UD President Dennis Assanis said in a statement. “This act will promote our nation’s economic growth and lead to a more skilled biomanufacturing workforce.”

Michael Quaranta, president at the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce, said that the chamber’s Delaware Manufacturing Association “consistently hears from employers on their struggle to find skilled workers.”

“With advancing technologies, the need to meet the talent demands of businesses who choose to reside and grow in Delaware is more important than ever,” he said in a statement. “The passing of the GLAM Act will boost Delaware’s manufacturing sector not only through creating well-paying jobs but also by developing and maintaining a skilled workforce.”

By Jacob Owens


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