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New Center For Biotechnology Could Attract ‘Large-Scale Opportunities’ To Houston’s Life Sciences Market

San Jacinto College broke ground on a project that will fill a gap in local life sciences talent and help the Houston area avoid losing another $550M project to a more established hub. 

McCord President Ryan McCord speaks at the groundbreaking of the Center for Biotechnology at Generation Park on Jan. 26.

SJC, McCord Development and the National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Training celebrated the groundbreaking Friday for the college’s Center for Biotechnology at Generation Park Campus.

The 10K SF building will host NIBRT-licensed biotechnology programs starting in spring 2025, representatives said. 

Ryan McCord, president of McCord, was driven to bring the other two parties together after Amgen picked North Carolina over Houston for a $550M biomanufacturing project in 2022, turning down $110M worth of incentives

“They actually communicated with us after making their decision … They said ‘We need to see a curriculum on the ground that can train that workforce,’” McCord said at the groundbreaking. 

CBRE last year ranked Houston 14th out of the nation's top 25 largest life sciences employment clusters. Raleigh/Durham was ranked 12th, benefiting from a significant boost in Q4 2022 that kept it out in front of Houston. 

North Carolina's large, established employment base was the deciding factor for Amgen’s project location, McCord said. After losing out two years ago, Amgen told him to get in touch with the Ireland-based National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Training, which it has often worked with.

That led him on a “business trek” that ultimately resulted in the Center for Biotechnology at Generation Park Campus project, he told Bisnow.

“We went to Ireland a couple of times. We’ve toured the United States,” McCord said. 

The travels taught McCord that NIBRT would be instrumental in setting up a biotechnology training program, and he called San Jacinto College to introduce their leaders to each other, he said.

“We basically played The Bachelor between these two institutions and it turns out they have a lot of shared DNA,” McCord said.

Representatives of San Jacinto College, McCord and the National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Training celebrate the groundbreaking of the Center for Biotechnology at Generation Park on Jan. 26.

“There is a tremendous need for access to talent in this industry,” San Jacinto College Chancellor Brenda Hellyer said, adding that SJC is trying to meet that need with programs like this one.

McCord is the developer of Generation Park, a 4,300-acre master-planned commercial property in northeast Houston. SJC opened its campus at Generation Park in 2020. 

“We believe this will create significant value within Generation Park and within the region, not just for the pharmaceutical companies but also for the job opportunities these employers will provide to the community,” McCord said.

McCord is already in discussions with life sciences companies that could benefit from the skilled workforce the center will create, he said. 

“We have a very significant pipeline of large-scale opportunities we’re working on right now, and this is a key part of their decision-making and evaluation of coming to the Houston region versus other geographies in the United States,” McCord said.

The Center for Biotechnology will complement BioHub Two, a 45-acre biomanufacturing hub at Generation Park that will include 500K SF of Current Good Manufacturing Practice-compliant manufacturing, lab and office space.

McCord plans to allow BioHub Two’s 45 acres to be subdivided to accommodate small- and large-scale manufacturing needs. 

CORRECTION, JAN. 30, 10:24 A.M. CT: A prior version of this article had the incorrect square footage of the Center for Biotechnology at Generation Park. The article has been updated.