COVID-19 vaccines will be manufactured in a recently opened York County facility

York

YORK COUNTY, Pa. (WHTM) — Vaccines — yes, those vaccines — will be manufactured in a newly opened biotechnology facility in York County.

Not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with another warehouse, but turning this vacant space into another warehouse would’ve been a waste. That’s because the Conewago Township plant previously occupied by Unilife is already built — expensively — for a biotechnology firm.

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Unilife, which manufactured syringes, went bankrupt and laid everyone off in 2017. BioTechnique was based in Madison, Wisconsin, but was growing and needed more space. Space, it turned out, like the former Unilife facility.

What made the existing building so perfect was the cost: about $22 million to buy, renovate and relocate, or about half the $40-50 million BioTechnique’s general manager, John Clapham, estimates it would’ve cost to build a facility like that from scratch.

Pa. Governor Tom Wolf (D) cut a ceremonial ribbon officially opening the facility Tuesday morning, flanked by Clapham, York County Economic Alliance President and CEO Kevin Schreiber, and other company and local leaders.

BioTechnique is a contract manufacturer of injectable vaccines, which — you might have heard — are big business these days.

“We have one of the big companies that we’re working with, assisting them, as part of the supply chain,” Clapham said.

He said a confidentiality agreement prohibits him from naming the company but confirmed it’s one of the big three pharmaceutical firms with vaccines approved for use in the U.S.: Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson.

“These companies that are developing vaccines all around the United States now have a contract manufacturer that can actually take care of making that vaccine,” Wolf said. “And actually it means keeping American intellectual property in the United States, in America.”

The commonwealth’s Department of Community and Economic Development helped lure BioTechnique, which is a subsidiary of California-based PSC Biotech, with $500,000 in “Pennsylvania First” grants and $200,000 in worker training aid. In exchange, the company committed to hiring at least 100 people within three years.

Clapham said the company will employ people like scientists and engineers, who will typically earn $50,000 to $100,000.

Schreiber said the announcement is big news for a local economy that, like the national one, has been rebounding in fits and starts.

“This is one big bright light that we can look for that really speaks to optimism,” he said.

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