A Boost for Biotech

October 19, 2020

A new building on the St. Paul campus will expand the capacity of the UMN BioTechnology Institute’s Biotechnology Resource Center and grow the University’s biotechnology footprint.

Tucked away in the basement of the Gortner Laboratory on the University’s St. Paul campus, the Biotechnology Resource Center (BRC) is easy to miss. But for nearly four decades, the center has been providing microbial cell production and downstream processing services to UMN researchers and industry partners. Now, it’s set to expand and will be located in the new Microbial Cell Production Facility (MCPF) set to be constructed on Buford Ave. late next year.

With clients ranging from startups to Fortune 500 companies, the BRC plays a unique role in the research and development ecosystem because of the scale at which it operates. “Right now we only do pilot-scale work,” says BRC Director Thomas Douville. He gives the example of a pharmaceutical company looking to produce a relatively small amount of a protein in order to test its efficacy as a treatment, “[BRC] is a place where companies can produce enough to get into early clinical trials” without making the financial investment and taking on the associated risk of producing at production scale.

The new BRC will offer many of the services it did in the past, which includes full-service pilot scale microbial fermentation and downstream processing, recovery and purification of inclusion bodies, proteins and small molecules, and more. However, unlike the current facility, the BRC will offer larger-scale fermentation and add new services, providing the biotechnology sector with a boost in capacity in their own backyard.

The BRC is an essential part of the BioTechnology Institute. “We look at ourselves as a Cornerstone of University-Industry Interaction in the life sciences,” says BTI Director Mike Sadowsky. “This new facility will not only enhance our ability to help our current partners, but also allow us to better serve students and faculty and attract new clients.” The new MCPF will provide much needed and essential services for regional and national biotechnology industries and will be an anchor for a biomanufacturing ecosystem on the St. Paul Campus. — Stephanie Xenos

The new building will expand the biotechnology footprint in St. Paul, advancing the University’s goal of creating a biotech hub on the campus. “The new MCPF will be the cornerstone of a growing biotech presence on the St. Paul campus and will move us in an exciting new direction that will allow us to expand our industry partnerships,” says CBS Dean Valery Forbes. “We are all very excited!”