Gov. Wolf Celebrates $5 Million Investment in Cheyney University’s ThinkUbator Biotechnology Initiative

May 03, 2022

Governor Tom Wolf and state Senator Vincent Hughes today joined legislators and educators at Cheyney University to celebrate a $5 million state investment, through the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP), for the university’s ThinkUbator initiative, designed to bolster Cheyney’s role as a leader in biotech research.

“As America’s first historically black university, Cheyney has a long history of supporting determined, innovative students and putting them on the path to a brighter future,” Governor Wolf said. “The ThinkUbator is helping to bring the life sciences community to Cheyney’s campus, through partnerships that will advance groundbreaking research while also helping to train a new generation of life science leaders and innovators.”

Cheyney University’s ThinkUbator is a biotech incubator project that will offer biologics, cell and gene therapy companies the opportunity to pursue their science in a campus setting. Partner companies will lease process development and wet lab space in a campus building dedicated to private enterprise.

“This investment is another significant step in the resurgence of Cheyney University and its place among the great centers of higher learning in Pennsylvania,” said Sen. Hughes, Cheyney board of trustees member.  “This groundbreaking institution is poised to create a future that’s worthy of its storied history. The work is hard but it’s worth it.”

The ThinkUbator is a historic initiative that will serve a region with record low vacancy rates for lab space, while ensuring that Cheyney University continues to be a leading educational institution for diverse and underrepresented students pursuing scientific careers in the life sciences.

The $5 million award will help in renovating the university’s Duckrey building infrastructure, such as:

  • HVAC, adapted and increased electrical capacity, plumbing, and new windows.
  • Interior space will be renovated into bench space, wet labs, a training facility, cold and dry storage.
  • Special equipment and casement will also need to be purchased and installed.

“The companies already operating on our campus working with our student interns provided proof that our concept works for all parties, the university, the students and the businesses,” said Cheyney President Aaron A. Walton. “The businesses we have brought onto our campus and into our lab space have a real interest in being here. This grant from the Wolf Administration gives us a major spark to continue to expand on that model in a more robust way.”

President Walton believes that making Cheyney a regional bioscience center will help the university grow its student body from its current enrollment of about 650 and continue to attract high achieving students. He also said recruiting for businesses will continue during construction. 

“We already have the interest. We just don’t have the space,” Walton said. “There are a number of businesses that would prefer not to go into a large city, and so we want have a home for them. We don’t want them to leave the state or this area. We offer an alternative where they can do the work they want to do where they want to be. So why not do it at an intimate college campus like Cheyney?”

RACP funds support critical expansion projects, provide opportunities for job creation and employment training, and contribute to community revitalization across the commonwealth.

“As America’s first institution of higher education for African Americans, Cheyney University has long had an innovative spirit driving the students, faculty and staff in their pursuit of quality higher education. Today, Cheyney’s leadership has reimagined this campus and established a modern path to success that will benefit students and our local economy,” state Representative Dianne Herrin said.  “This substantial investment in Cheyney’s infrastructure will help empower students to become visionary leaders within our community, our country, and around the world.”

Through RACP, the commonwealth has awarded $12.5 million to projects supporting Cheyney University in the past two years. In addition to the ThinkUbator award, the university has received:

  • $1 million to bring Advanced Alchemy Labs, a hemp extraction and processing company, to campus (2020).
  • $3.5 million through two allocations ($2 million in 2020 and $1.5 million in April 2022) in separate rounds to the Wade Wilson Building.
  • $3 million allocation, which will be applied to bringing American Additive, a 3D printing company, to campus (April 2022).
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