The U.S. Department of Defense opened its new Advanced Development and Manufacturing facility in Alachua today.
The DOD has partnered with the local, private company Nanotherapeutics to make vaccines and medical products to support the troops from biological weapons and the country from surprise infection outbreaks.
The White House sent a letter to the DOD in 2010 asking the department to create a facility that would speed up and better control the process of manufacturing pharmaceutical drugs and vaccines for the troops, joint program executive officer for chemical and biological defense, Douglas Bryce said.
The biopharmaceutical company’s proposal won over the DOD with how they would use cutting-edge processes to supply the nation’s troops with “countermeasures” against biological threats. The company was awarded a contract in 2013.
“Innovation is what inspired us to pick Alachua and Nanotherapeutics; we wanted another way to look at how do we produce medical drug products,” Bryce said.
The 183,000 square foot facility was specifically designed to provide the rapid development and manufacturing of vaccines and antitoxins. These countermeasures would be protecting troops and the nation as a whole against man-made or naturally occurring biological threats.
Christian Hassell, deputy assistant secretary of defense for chemical and biological defense, said surprise events such as Pearl Harbor, the anthrax mailings, 9/11, and the Ebola outbreak, are reasons for the facility.
“It’s fitting that we do this today on the solemn occasion of Pearl Harbor Day,” he said. “The whole issue of surprise is a common subject of discussion. What can we do to avoid surprise, to prevent it, to respond to it more effectively. To that end this facility is a very important capability to that,” he said.
It’s a unique responsibilty of the DOD to develop the vaccines and therapeutic drugs to avoid surprise threats.
“We may not be able to avoid all possible future threats, but this facility will take us a long way forward, being much better prepared for those,” Hassell said.
Susan Davenport, president and CEO of the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce, praised the innovation and opportunity that the facility has for the community.
“We’re now living the vision of this region as a global hub of talent innovation and opportunity,” she said.
Davenport called the facility and contract with Nanotherapeutics a “game-changing economic opportunity in greater-Gainesville.