Kansas Lands a $650 Million Plant to Make Vaccines and Fight Biological Threats

Manhattan, Kan. — Kansas officials announced an agreement Monday to build a $650 million biological manufacturing plant near Manhattan that will create 500 jobs.

The facility in Pottawatomie County will develop vaccines to help combat biological threats. In addition, it will provide other manufacturing and testing services.

Gov. Laura Kelly joined hundreds of people to announce the agreement Monday with Scorpion Biological Services. The plan is for the 500,000-square-foot plant to create hundreds of jobs within seven years.

“This is a big deal,” Kelly said. “It’s big for Scorpion. It’s big for Manhattan. And it’s big for Kansas. We’re in the midst of a new era of economic growth.”

Kelly and the Legislature approved more generous tax incentives in hopes of drawing another, larger manufacturing facility to the state. The outcome of that project is still pending.

The Scorpion deal is still pending based on the approval of state and local taxpayer incentives for the project. Initial information did not outline the total dollar value of the incentives.

Scorpion officials said the pandemic exposed weaknesses in America’s ability to respond quickly to disease outbreaks.

The Manhattan plant is part of the company’s effort to build a U.S.-based rapid response system.

“The pandemic woke us up to a problem, the slow development of new drugs,” said Jeff Wolf, chief executive officer of Scorpion’s parent company, Heat Biologics.

State and company officials said selecting Kansas was based on the state’s central location, the research expertise at Kansas State University and national security infrastructure. Manhattan is the home of the soon-to-open National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility designed to protect against threats from animal diseases.

K-State has the Biosecurity Research Institute that focuses on infectious diseases.

Wolf also cited the quality of life in Manhattan as part of the appeal.

“We saw no better home for our employees,” Wolf said.

Scorpion’s website describes a company focused on cell- and gene-based therapies as well as other biologic manufacturing and research.

The long-term NBAF project was hoped to help the state attract more bio-related industries to Kansas and the Kansas City area as part of what officials call an animal health corridor.

Jim McLean is the Statehouse reporter for Kansas Public Radio and senior correspondent for the Kansas News Service. You can reach him on Twitter @jmcleanks or email jim (at) kcur (dot) org. 

Stephen Koranda is the news editor for the Kansas News Service. You can follow him on Twitter @Stephen_Koranda or email him at stephenkoranda (at) kcur (dot) org.

The Kansas News Service is a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio focused on health, the social determinants of health and their connection to public policy. 

Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished by news media at no cost with proper attribution and a link to ksnewsservice.org.

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