NEW IBERIA, La. (KLFY) — Two new projects in Iberia Parish are catapulting Acadiana into a biopharmaceutical powerhouse.

The new facilities at the New Iberia Research Center will allow researchers to test and manufacture drugs and vaccines.

State and parish leaders say the projects will create hundreds of jobs and save thousands of lives across the globe.

“This is going to be the corridor for pharmaceuticals throughout the state of Louisiana,” Iberia Parish President Larry Richard said.

“You spend a lot of time in the legislature, and there are few projects that you will look back on when you’re old, and you say, what were the game changers? What were those projects that were generational in nature?’ This will be one of them,” State Senator Page Cortez said.

Cortez says UL Lafayette, the legislature, and representatives and senators from Acadiana came together to make this happen.

Dr. Ramesh Kolluru explains the new facilities will give the New Iberia Research Center, the nation’s largest non-human primate center, more opportunities to fight viruses, like COVID-19.

“The facility that we currently have is certified as a biosafety level 2 facility. So while we can do the vaccine-related work here and work on getting the antibodies developed within the vaccine within the monkeys, we could not challenge the monkey with the actual virus itself because we did not have the facility with the biosafety level 3, which is what it’s called, which is where you can hold these kinds of viruses,” Dr. Kolluru, Vice President of UL Research Innovation and Economic Development, said.

He says because NIRC is a level 2 facility, they couldn’t manufacture vaccines during the pandemic.

“The fact of the matter is it resulted in about three months of delay because we had to transport our animals with these antibodies in them after we had administered the vaccines into those animals to a facility where we could actually expose these animals to the actual virus itself. This was happening at a time where across the nation, across the world, thousands of lives were being lost on a daily basis because all for the lack of a facility here,” he added.

Now that facility is coming to fruition.

“So that the next generation of infectious diseases, COVID-19, the next generation of lifestyle diseases like cancer and various others that we know amount in the vaccines that we found during COVID-19, monoclonal antibodies and such as possible cures. We will be able to research them here at the center, but we will be able to manufacture them just down the road in a five mile radius,” Dr. Kolluru added.

Both projects are expected to be completed in the next two years.