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RTG selected as lead developer of 500,000 square foot biodefense-focused manufacturing facility

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

Durham, NC-headquartered Heat Biologics Inc., which will officially change its name to NightHawk Biosciences Inc. on May 3, has announced plans to construct a more than 500,000 square foot biodefense-focused manufacturing facility in Manhattan, KS, and Knoxville-based Realty Trust Group (RTG), an affiliate of PYA, the power behind teknovation.biz, will serve as the lead developer on the project.

In an event earlier this week, Heat Biologics executives announced the facility that will support its Scorpion Biological Services subsidiary through a partnership that includes RTG, CRB Group, the State of Kansas and local and Kansas State University (K-State) affiliates. Heat Biologics is a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company focused on developing novel biodefense assets and first-in-class therapies to modulate the immune system.

The company intends to utilize the new facility for large molecule and biologics manufacturing, with a particular focus on biodefense. In addition to servicing Scorpion Biological Services’ own product pipeline, it plans to operate as a full-service Contract Development and Manufacturing Organization (CDMO) to provide third-party manufacturing services on a fee-for-service basis. Once fully operational, the new facility is expected to employ more than 500 individuals and have a billion-dollar economic impact within the State of Kansas.

The new facility will join an already impressive array of facilities and assets in Manhattan, the home of K-State. Those resources include K-State’s Biosecurity Research Institute (BRI) and the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The design and engineering of the facility is being led by CRB Group, a nationally recognized firm focused on designing and building biomanufacturing facilities, with RTG, a leading healthcare/ life sciences real estate advisory and development firm, serving as the lead developer on the project.

“RTG is proud to be the lead developer for this significant project in partnership with Heat Biologics and subsidiary Scorpion Biological Services,” said Greg Gheen, RTG President (pictured at right). “A project of this magnitude signals the important advancements occurring across the life science industry enhancing the domestic production of biologics and supporting our public health initiatives.”

According to Emergen Research, the current demand for biologics is rapidly growing, with an expected market size reaching $567 billion by 2028.

Those attending this week’s announcement included Kansas Governor Laura Kelly, Lieutenant Governor David Toland, U.S. Senator Jerry Moran, former K-State President General Richard Myers and current K-State President Richard Linton.

“We are thrilled and excited that Scorpion has chosen Kansas for this game-changing facility that will have a massive positive impact in our state,” Governor Kelly was quoted as saying in a news release. “Being in the center of the country, with quick access to either coast, there is no better state for Scorpion to locate in order to address potential threats to public health.”

David Halverson, President of the Scorpion Biological Services subsidiary of Heat Biologics, added, “We are very excited to break ground on this new facility. There is a strong demand for world-class biomanufacturing, which we expect to continue well into the future. We intend to help fill that demand with our San Antonio, Texas and Manhattan, Kansas facilities. The 500,000 square foot Manhattan facility is being designed to service up to 144,000 liters across 48 bioreactors–powered by an excellent Kansas workforce. We’re looking forward to rapidly growing and expanding Scorpion, and Manhattan is the perfect location for our newest facility.”

Jeff Wolf, Chief Executive Officer of Heat Biologics, discussed the continuum of activities for the enterprise. “With a model that starts with discovery at our Skunkworx subsidiary in North Brunswick, New Jersey and ends with commercial scale manufacturing here in Manhattan, this facility represents the next stage in our evolution, designed to enable us to combine speed and agility with the full-integration of discovery, development and manufacturing.”

He added, “The COVID pandemic and recent geopolitical events highlight the urgent need for rapid response to potential biological threats, natural or man-made. Among other intended uses, we believe this facility should enable us to effectively scale production of ANTHIM®, an anthrax antitoxin, for use against a potential anthrax attack per our Elusys acquisition, as well as RapidVax®, a rapid plug-and-play programmable vaccine designed to target a comprehensive range of emerging biological threats.”

In a news release the day after the Kansas event, Heat Biologics announced the name change to NightHawk Biosciences to better reflect the company’s evolution, including expansion of its therapeutic pipeline, the vertical integration of capabilities from drug discovery to manufacturing and commercialization, as well as the company’s new biodefense capabilities. The umbrella will now include Skunkworx Bio, Heat Biologics, Pelican Therapeutics, Scorpion Biological Services, and Elusys Therapeutics.

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