CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A nonprofit arm of West Virginia University took ownership of a shuttered pharmaceutical plant Thursday with the goal of improving area job and education opportunities.
WVU Medicine will work with the university through the WVU Innovation Corp. to oversee the 1.1-million-square-foot (102,190-square-meter) facility in Morgantown. Discussions with potential private industry tenants are ongoing, said WVU Health System President and CEO Albert Wright.
“There is significant interest from many parties in that building,” Wright said on a conference call. “We’re going to be working up a lot of different possibilities as to how we use that building over time.”
Wright said he envisions a few anchor tenants and other, smaller businesses in the building, as opposed to one big tenant. He said it’s possible that portions, but not all, of the building could be available for use as a pharmaceutical business.
“We’re looking to be an economic engine here,” Wright said. “We’re looking for some big-anchor tenants, but we’re also going to have a component to what we’re doing to be an incubator for startup businesses, to provide some of the infrastructure to get them going from the start.”
Prospective tenants don’t necessarily have to be health-care related, “but we’d like to tie it into the health science capability of the university,” Wright said. “So we have had a number of small startups that are interested.”
Viatris Inc. transferred the facility for $1 under a memorandum of understanding with the university. Viatris announced in December 2020 that it was laying off 1,500 workers at the plant, which was formerly operated by the generic drug company Mylan.
Mylan merged with Upjohn in 2020 to form the new company. Viatris, which announced it would slash 20% of its workforce worldwide, is now one of the world’s leading makers of generic drugs and maintains research and development operations in Morgantown.
“Our goal has always been to identify a responsible new steward for this unique site that would secure the best possible future for the facility, our impacted employees and the Morgantown community, a community that continues to play an important and vital role for Viatris,” company executive chairman Robert J. Coury said in a statement.
The plant closing left workers scrambling to find new jobs in a state that is often trying to lure new companies to uplift a stagnant economy once dominated by the coal industry.
Rob Alsop, WVU’s vice president for strategic initiatives, said former Mylan employees will be offered a tuition-free education at the university. Coupled with the state’s existing offer of free tuition at its community colleges, it will “make sure that those employees are ready for the new job opportunities that we hope come from this,” he said.