Pittsburgh research giants unveil landmark $200M immunotherapy center to combat cancer and aging

The UPMC building at 5000 Baum Boulevard in Pittsburgh, which will be renovated into an eight-story innovation hub to house the Immune Transplant and Therapy Center. (GeekWire Photo / Taylor Soper)

Far before humans understood the basics of modern medicine, our immune systems protected our bodies from microscopic invaders and battled deadly diseases. Now, scientists in the emerging field of immunotherapy are using advanced science and engineering to turn the immune system into a tool that can solve some of humanity’s most pressing health problems.

Two of Pittsburgh’s research powerhouses — the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) and the University of Pittsburgh — unveiled plans Tuesday for a new $200 million immunotherapy center that they believe could open the door to a new wave of innovation in this field. The UPMC Immune Transplant and Therapy Center (ITTC) will use immunotherapies to tackle health challenges in cancer care, transplants and aging.

UPMC will largely fund and operate the center. The University of Pittsburgh, or Pitt as it’s known, will renovate a 200,000-square-foot building at 5000 Baum Blvd. in Pittsburgh’s Shadyside neighborhood to house labs, offices, and eventually startups and industry partners for the center.

A rendering if the renovated building. (University of Pittsburgh Photo)

More than 200 people gathered for the announcement in Pittsburgh today.

Dr. Steve Shapiro, UPMC’s chief medical and scientific officer, told GeekWire that the goal of the center is to help UPMC and Pitt researchers turn their work into viable commercial products. He described the $200 million as a “venture fund” that will seed those ideas and quickly develop them inside the institutions, instead of going through lengthy grant funding and external commercialization processes.

“We would like [researchers] to turn their scientific breakthroughs into clinical programs and commercial products with urgency,” Shapiro said, “and we want them to be able to do that within the confines of the university and UPMC.”

A second view of 5000 Baum. The building was originally built as a Model T assembly plant. (GeekWire Photo / Taylor Soper)

Mark Shlomchik, chair of Pitt’s Department of Imunology, emphasized the importance of creating a scientific and commercial community to help immunotherapy thrive in Pittsburgh.

“Research is always done by a community, not just by one person, so our ability to bring them together in this one place, where they can really interact and collaborate, I think is going to bring a lot of synergy to the research,” he said in a …read more

Source:: GeekWire

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