Construction begins on $80 million expansion of the Massachusetts Biologic Laboratories  Architectural rendering of the new Massachusetts Biologic Lab filling facility

A part of the University of Massachusetts Medical School, the lab is the only public facility of its kind in the nation.

April 25, 2003

BOSTON, Mass.— Investing to advance its vital mission to develop biologic products that significantly improve the health of the public, state and local officials today broke ground for an historic expansion of the Massachusetts Biologic Laboratories (MBL).

“This is a great day for Massachusetts Biologic Laboratories, and the public mission it serves,” said Donna Ambrosino, MD, director of the laboratories and a professor of pediatrics at the medical school. “This new facility will allow us to significantly expand our unique role in developing biologic products for both common and rare medical conditions.”

The new MBL facility will sit on a 15.3-acre section of the former Boston State Hospital property in Mattapan.  The state Division of Capital Asset Management transferred the site to the medical school last year to facilitate the MBL’s expansion and to help spur economic development on and around the long-shuttered state hospital campus. Franklin Place Associates, LLC is the developer of the 80,000 square foot facility. Boston-based Skanska USA Building Inc. is the construction manager.  Stull and Lee Inc. of Boston designed the new building. Slated to open in 2005, the new MBL facility will eventually employ 130 people including scientists, engineers, manufacturing associates, laboratory technicians and an array of support staff.

The new facility in Mattapan represents an expansion of the MBL’s existing buildings on UMMS’s nearby Jamaica Plain campus, adjacent to the Arnold Arboretum. The new building will include state-of-the-art aseptic filling capacity as well as monoclonal antibody manufacturing. Both aseptic filling and monoclonal antibody manufacturing are in short supply in the United States. The new filling line will allow MBL to continue to fill its own products as well as offer this limited resource for both private and public needs.

The MBL is the only publicly owned, non-profit FDA-licensed manufacturer of vaccines and other biologic products in the United States. The laboratory was established in 1894 by the state Board of Health to produce diphtheria antitoxin, and since then MBL’s singular focus has been to improve public health through applied research, development and production of biologic products.  In 1997 the State Legislature transferred MBL operations from the Department of Public Health to UMass Medical School to “maintain their public purpose, preserving their ability to compete in an increasingly competitive marketplace and maximize their value to the Commonwealth.”  Bringing the MBL into the fold of the state’s only public medical school was a perfect fit, said UMMS Chancellor Aaron Lazare. “There is no more compelling example of the medical school’s mission of public service than the work that goes on at the Massachusetts Biologic Laboratories,” Dr. Lazare said. “Literally millions of people, in the Commonwealth and across the country, live healthier lives because of the MBL. Now, with the added capacity for development and production that will come from this expansion, MBL will continue to play its vital role in the health of the nation for decades to come.”

Over the years, MBL has introduced into general use vaccines to prevent pertussis, tetanus, diphtheria, and other diseases.  The lab’s scientists have also pioneered plasma products to protect infants and toddlers from serious infectious diseases.

In recent years, during a serious national shortage of tetanus/diphtheria vaccine, Massachusetts was the only state in the country protected from the shortage as MBL provides tetanus/diphtheria vaccine for all of its residents. Furthermore, MBL increased

production to meet the national shortage and delivered over 1 million doses of the tetanus/diphtheria vaccine to other states to help deal with the shortfall. This year, MBL expects to deliver over 2 million doses of the vaccine to other states.

MBL’s unique capacity also figured on the national scene in 1996 when the National Institutes of Health (NIH) sought a biologic manufacturer to collaborate on products in its extramural research program for which no commercial sponsor was interested.  MBL was awarded a five-year contract and since then has produced monoclonal antibodies for a number of infectious diseases.

In 1999, the Department of Defense (DoD) sought a manufacturer of Vaccinia Immune Globulin (VIG) for its smallpox BioDefense program.  Again, no commercial manufacturer was interested; MBL alone responded to the task.  That program took on new meaning and a larger scope when, in the days after the Sept. 11 terrorist attack, the DoD asked the laboratory to expedite the VIG program to secure supply of globulin to treat adverse reactions to smallpox vaccine.

 In the past 20 years, MBL has also been an active participant in the national effort to develop and produce “orphan products,” which are those drugs intended for limited populations (less than 200,000 patients per year).   Many of these are critical, life-saving products for those affected by a rare disease.  Despite their importance, commercial manufacturers are often reluctant to invest the resources required to bring these products to market if the annual sales are expected to be less than $400 million. MBL has developed or collaborated on five such products in the past 20 years.  One of these, MBL’s Cytomegalovirus Immune Globulin, was the first biologic product granted official “orphan drug status” by the FDA. 

“The interests of the people of Massachusetts, indeed of the nation, are best served by having a public-sector facility like MBL,” Dr. Ambrosino said. “Today’s ground breaking ensures that for generations to come, monoclonal antibodies and other biologics that impact the health of our public, will be available regardless of their commercial viability.”

The University of Massachusetts Medical School is one of the fastest growing academic health centers in the country and has built a reputation as a world-class research institution, consistently producing noteworthy advances in clinical and basic research.  The Medical School attracts more than $143 million in research funding annually, 80 percent of which comes from federal funding sources.  Research funding enables UMMS scientists to explore human disease from the molecular level to large-scale clinical trials.  Basic and clinical research leads to new approaches for diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease. Visit for additional information.


Contact: Michael Cohen, 508-856-2000