On April 18, the rumors and months of curiosity about the major economic development project coming to Kansas were finally laid to rest.
Governor Laura Kelly announced Scorpion Biological Services, a subsidiary of Heat Biologics Inc., will develop a new 500,000-square-foot biomanufacturing facility in Manhattan, Kan. The $650 million capital investment project will create 500 new, high-paying jobs in Manhattan within the next seven years.
“Kansas is the center of the country, with quick access to either coast, a strong workforce and a growing economy — so there’s no better state for Scorpion to locate to address potential threats to public health,” Gov. Laura Kelly said. “Scorpion’s selection of locating this facility in the state reinforces what many have come to learn — Kansas is open for business.”
Scorpion is a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company that develops novel biodefense assets and first-in-class therapies to modulate the immune system — vaccines. The company intends to use the new facility for large-molecule and biologics manufacturing, with a particular focus on biodefense.
Once fully operational, Manhattan’s Scorpion facility is expected to employ more than 500 people, with initial average starting salaries anticipated to be more than $75,000 per year.
The facility will support the development of vaccines that enable an accelerated response to global biological threats. In addition, the company intends to provide commercial-level development, manufacturing, and bioanalytical testing services at every stage for biopharmaceutical products on a fee-for-service basis to the global health care industry.
“The COVID pandemic and recent geopolitical events have compounded the urgent need for rapid response to potential biological threats, natural or man-made,” Jeff Wolf, Heat Biologics’ CEO, said. “Today’s announcement is a major milestone for our company, for Scorpion, for Manhattan and for the nation, enhancing our domestic production of vital biologics to protect Americans from deadly disease. We appreciate the tremendous bipartisan support for this initiative, and we are extremely grateful to the state of Kansas and their officials for their hard work in bringing this to fruition.”
Manhattan is quickly on its way to fulfilling its 20-year goal of becoming a biodefense community. The region is home to Kansas State University and its Biosecurity Research Institute. It’s also the site of the nearly completed USDA National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF). The city is adjacent to the U.S. Army’s Fort Riley military installation, home to the 1st Infantry Division and approximately 15,000 active-duty service members and their families.
K-State President Richard Linton said Scorpion plans to begin research right away — before the facility is completed — in collaboration with BRI faculty. Scorpion plans to recruit much of its workforce from K-State and Manhattan Area Technical College graduates, and veterans exiting the military from Fort Riley.
“We are showing again and again that we have what it takes to attract highly innovative and highly technical businesses to Kansas,” Lt. Gov. and Commerce Secretary David Toland said. “It’s absolutely critical that we, as a nation, increase our capacity for domestic production of these types of vaccines, and we are extremely proud to see this work happening here in Kansas.” Scorpion’s biomanufacturing facility represents a new chapter for the company, and it opens the door to a more prepared, innovative, and resilient future when it comes to how the United States — and the world — will respond to biological threats.
“Today, we are very proud to unveil our newest biomanufacturing facility in Manhattan, Kan.,” Wolf said. “With a model that starts with discovery at our Skunkworx subsidiary in North Brunswick, N.J., and ends with commercial-scale manufacturing here in Manhattan, this facility represents the next stage in our evolution, enabling us to combine speed and agility with the full-integration of discovery, development and manufacturing.”
The deal is still pending local, county and state approvals for incentive packages. At the April 19 Manhattan City Commission meeting, commissioners considered a resolution of intent to commit to the project, which is anticipated to include island annexation of the proposed site at the northeast corner of Excel Road and Highway 24. Sale of the property, currently owned by Midwest Concrete Materials Inc., is still pending approvals. Representatives of Scorpion planned to attend the commission meeting to discuss the project.
The Kansas Department of Commerce and the Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce contributed to this article.