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Shot in arm for biotechnology in region

New and existing biotechnology companies in the Lehigh Valley got a shot in the arm from the Commonwealth on April 3 when Governor Mark Schweiker announced that the state would use tobacco settlement funds to support a Life Science Greenhouse designed to advance biotechnology research and its applications for new companies and products.

Lehigh will share in the $32.8 million grant over five years, said David Williams, vice provost for research. The university will provide research resources and educational programs, and will leverage the industrial expertise of the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation and the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of North Eastern Pennsylvania to join with the research strengths of Penn State Hershey and University Park.

"Among the strengths that we bring to this multi-faceted partnership is the largest electron microscope facility of any college in the country – one also used by faculty and students from Penn State on a regular basis," said Williams. "We offer the longest running satellite distance-education programs in the nation, delivering master's degrees in molecular biology and biopharmaceuticals to Merck, Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline and other pharmaceutical giants. We have expanding research programs in biochemistry and neuroscience and a new undergraduate major in bioengineering."

Schweiker said the new program was expected to create 4,400 jobs, attract or create 100 biotechnology companies, and leverage more than $150 million in private investment over the next five years.

Ned Heindel, professor of chemistry, said the greenhouse will complement the Ben Franklin program at Lehigh, which has helped launch local companies like Orasure, Digestive Care Inc. and Biomed Sciences Inc.

William Johnson
wjjo@lehigh.edu

Posted on Friday, April 12, 2002

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