GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) today will officially open its newest global vaccines R&D center in Rockville, MD, where the pharma giant will base 450 researchers and support staffers and spend $50 million over the next 2 years on technology and equipment.

The new center—GSK’s first dedicated vaccine R&D facility in the U.S.—will house 12 vaccine development programs, including projects supporting its candidate shingles vaccine, for which GSK applied for FDA approval in October.

R&D programs for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), Group B Streptococcus (GBS), and dengue fever will also be based at the site, to be overseen by Ripley Ballou, M.D., GSK's vp, Vaccines.

Rockville will be one of three global vaccines R&D centers for GSK; the other two are in Rixensart, Belgium, and Siena, Italy.

“Our investment here signifies our commitment to discovering and developing new vaccines across a range of pressing public health priorities, including those important here in the U.S,” Luc Debruyne, president, GSK Vaccines, said in a statement. “It places GSK at the heart of a dynamic and cutting-edge bioscience hub in Washington, D.C. We look forward to fruitful partnerships and collaborations in this community to advance the science of vaccines and help improve the health of millions of people around the world.”

GSK will mark the official opening of the Rockville site with a ceremony to be led by CEO Sir Andrew Witty, Debruyne, and Maryland Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford. State and local officials, senior representatives of health institutions, academic partners, and GSK employees are also expected to attend.

Rockville is also where GSK has located its proposed “Biopreparedness Organisation” (BPO), a dedicated, permanent organization that will apply a “no profit/no loss” model to designing and developing new vaccines against emerging viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens that potentially pose a threat to global public health.

GSK acquired the Rockville site in 2012 when it bought Human Genome Sciences for $3 billion. Among the site’s advantages, according to GSK, are proximity to current research partners, including the NIH and PATH (a nonprofit global health organization), and public health stakeholders.

Since last year, GSK has been preparing the Rockville site for occupancy by transferring key staff and projects, installing equipment, and modernizing the facility.

GSK markets 39 pediatric, adolescent, adult, and traveler vaccines designed to protect against 21 diseases, including hepatitis, meningitis, influenza, pneumococcal disease, and rotavirus. GSK has 15 vaccine candidates in development against diseases, including shingles, RSV, GBS, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) exacerbations.

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