hen Mylan Pharmaceuticals merged with Pfizer’s Upjohn division to form Viatris in 2021, West Virginia lost one of its largest life sciences companies. Yet the state didn’t lick their wounds for long. Instead of sitting in sorrow, West Virginia began building the city Mylan left behind into a life sciences cluster.
Over the last two years, Morgantown’s West Virginia University has spearheaded the rapid expansion of the city’s life sciences sector. Ranked among the top 100 medical schools in America for research and primary care, WVU already offers this industry its most dire need: a pipeline of skilled workers. In addition to this advantage, the university knew that adding to its portfolio of essential infrastructure was vital to enticing expanding companies. Last July, Site Selection Magazine reported that in March 2022, Viatris transferred ownership of Mylan’s former Morgantown manufacturing facility to WVU Medicine. Over the last year, WVU has breathed new life into the former pill plant. The 1.1-million-sq.-ft. facility has been transformed into the WVU Innovation Corporation, a business incubator working to increase employment opportunities, boost West Virginia’s economy and accelerate the advancement of science, tech, engineering, math and medicine.
West Virginia University, situated in downtown Morgantown, West Virginia, sits along the Monongahela River and boasts a student body of just under 19,000 undergraduates.
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“The expansion by GATC Health in West Virginia is the perfect example of how tech innovation is spreading beyond Silicon Valley and into more remote regions where resources to boost economic development, specialized research and job growth can be found in clusters that feed off universities.”
—Rebecca Fannin, author of “Silicon Heartland”
In March, the facility welcomed three new tenants: Yunigen, LLC, a pharmaceutical company revolutionizing drug discovery, development, and commercialization; ExesaLibero Pharma, a Morgantown-based developer of small molecule drugs to treat bone disease; and GATC Health Corp, a tech company utilizing AI to innovate drug discovery and disease prediction.
“We are taking advantage of this prime facility and support of the university to not only further our business initiatives, but also to provide direct, immediate benefit to the Morgantown area and West Virginia,” said Jeff Moses, president of GATC Health Corp., in the initial release. “We will be hiring life sciences and biotech focused teams, R&D lab technicians and administrative staff to further attract partnering businesses to this facility and delivering back significant advances in treatments that greatly affect the 13 states across the Appalachian region.”
Located in and the county seat of Monongalia County, idyllic Morgantown is the third largest city in the state.
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Rebecca Fannin, author of “Silicon Heartland,” noted in April 2023 that “the expansion by GATC Health in West Virginia is the perfect example of how tech innovation is spreading beyond Silicon Valley and into more remote regions where resources to boost economic development, specialized research and job growth can be found in clusters that feed off universities.”
This sentiment certainly rings true in Morgantown. In April, West Virginia University secured another massive economic win for the state when UNDBIO, a South Korean pharmaceutical company that provides diabetic care solutions, signed a lease to build an insulin manufacturing facility at WVU Research Park. The company is investing $100 million in phase one of the project, during which the facility will work to secure FDA approval for its insulin product. Over the first three years of the project, approximately 200 jobs will be created. Once the company receives FDA approval, UNDBIO plans to continue expanding the company’s footprint in West Virginia and create more jobs.