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Company updates plans for commercial vaccine manufacturing facility in Hamilton

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Posted at 9:41 PM, Jun 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-25 10:25:13-04

HAMILTON  — A New Jersey-based pharmaceuticals company says it's on track to build a new, commercial-scale vaccine manufacturing facility in the Bitterroot Valley.

Tonix Pharmaceuticals first announced plans to locate one of its operations on the east side of Hamilton last winter. And this week, company officials are in town for further discussions with Ravalli County and Hamilton leaders.

Plans are to build on 44-acres of land off Old Corvallis Highway in the Targeted Economic Development District (TEDD) organized by the county, city and the Ravalli County Economic Development Authority.

Tonix CEO Doctor Seth Lederman says the importance of vaccines has been underscored by the pandemic.

"We're going to need solutions. Maybe a childhood vaccine program, something. Because this is, you know, a pretty nasty virus. But again, it's not just about COVID. It's about the future and we really need these capabilities. We need long-term investment in capabilities. Not only on R&D, but also production."

Dr. Lederman says it's going to be a few years before there's an actual building on this site. Not only do they have to get all the design work and the infrastructure put in, but they also have to get FDA approval for their vaccine manufacturing process.

Still, he expects the company will start recruiting soon, tapping into the existing bioscience, from Rocky Mountain Labs to GSK and the University of Montana.

"You know as we said, there's a lot of expertise in the area," explains Lederman. "Rocky Mountain turns out all these amazing post doctoral fellows and all sorts of things. So we expect to be able to recruit in the community. But we're probably also going to have to relocate people."

Tat raises the question of housing, which isn't unique to the Bitterroot. But Ravalli County Commissioner Greg Chilcott believes the community can solve those issues.

"Housing clearly is going to be a challenge. I mean the pressure we've seen in the Bitterroot over the last 18-months has been pretty extraordinary. We're still looking to solutions for that, and we'll find them."

And based on what he's seen so far, Lederman believes the Bitterroot is up to the challenge.

"Everyone has been very welcoming. It's very exciting."