By Christi Milligan
NEWARK -- The University of Delaware has been awarded a $70 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce for the formation of a new Manufacturing USA Institute for biopharmaceutical research and advancements.
The National Institute for Innovation in Manufacturing Biopharmaceuticals (NIIMBL) -- Manufacturing USA's 11th institute -- will be headquartered at the UD's Newark campus, and will include an assortment of 150 companies, colleges, nonprofits and government agencies focused on lab to market growth.
"This is a phenomenal formula for progress and information," said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, who made the announcement to a crowd of hundreds gathered at the Roselle Center for the Arts on Friday, including Delaware's congressional delegation. She said that the formation of the institute will break down silos from the private sector to academia.
This institute is the first awarded under the 2014 bipartisan Revitalize American Manufacturing Innovation (RAMI) Act using an "open topic" competition and the first sponsored by the Department of Commerce.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology under the Department of Commerce solicited proposals from all manufacturing sectors and applications were subject to a rigorous review by teams of technical experts and an interagency panel, according to UD officials.
But Pritzker said the biopharmaceutical sector promised the most growth and possibilities for innovation and collaboration, and a growing market for a skilled workforce.
NIIMBL's consortium of companies, nonprofits, educational institutions and state governments have committed at least $129 million to the new institute, in addition to the $70 million from the U.S. Department of Commerce to be awarded over the next five years.
It is the largest grant in the history of the 273-year-old university, according to UD President Dennis Assanis.
Innovation in the biopharmaceutical industry have been challenged by FDA processes which require time consuming and expensive retooling to bring them into compliance, according to Pritzker.
The institute will conduct research on biopharmaceuticals, prescription drugs made with living cells and will focus on bringing the drugs to market faster. It will also focus on workforce training.
Pritzker also noted negative unemployment rate, availability of jobs and higher salary "“ roughly two times more than the national average.
Manufacturing USA institutes are public-private partnerships that each have distinct technology focus areas but work towards a common goal: to secure America's future through manufacturing innovation, education, and collaboration. Each institute is designed to be a public-private membership organization that provides vision, leadership, and resources to its members.
"I'm thrilled to mark this tremendous victory for the University of Delaware and all the partners in this new institute," said Senator Chris Coons. "This announcement makes official what I've long known: the University of Delaware is a true hub of manufacturing innovation. This new institute brings together leading academic, non-profit and private sector organizations from across the country to accelerate innovation that ensures the United States remains the world leader in biopharmaceutical manufacturing."
"Here in Delaware, we have a vibrant research community, thanks to the University and its commitment to partnering with the public and private sectors to push innovation further," said Senator Tom Carper.
This was the second Manufacturing USA announcement from the University of Delaware this week. Earlier, the school announced that it will lead a major node in the Rapid Advancement in Process Intensification Deployment (RAPID) Manufacturing Institute led by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE).
The U.S. Department of Energy announced RAPID as 10th member of the national network of Manufacturing USA Institutes.