Mayor announces plans for new pandemic research institute


Mayor Bill de Blasio announced plans on Thursday to create a new pandemic research center in Manhattan’s recently opened Alexandria Center for Life and Science. 

The center, dubbed the Pandemic Response Institute, will be housed next to the city’s new pandemic response lab which processes COVID-19 tests for up to 20,000 people a day with officials working to boost that number to 30,000 in the coming weeks.   The institute will expand on the test and tracing work of the lab and help create a “blueprint” for addressing future pandemics through training as well as outbreak investigation and management. 

“We know that during this crisis there was so much catching up that had to be done,” de Blasio said. “That work can be done in advance going forward.”

City health officials plan to meet with public health experts in January to further develop a strategy for the institute and will issue a Request for Proposal to find a private company to oversee the institute with the goal of selecting an operator by next year. 

De Blasio said that the decision to not house the institute within the city’s Department of Health was made to ensure that the center would have the resources to develop “national and global reach.” 

“Central to all of this is really public and private partnership,” said Dr. Jay Varma. “Bringing together the best from the city, from government, our universities, our biotech, and technology centers, and our civic organizations. Together they can spur economic development.”

Officials hope that the institute will help transform New York City into the “public health capital of the world” and serve as a pillar in the city’s pandemic economic recovery by creating at least hundreds of new jobs.  At the moment, the plan is to only house the institute at the Alexandria Center until officials receive results from the RFP process, once partner organizations are selected the city will determine if it will remain in the building or need to be moved to a new location. 

The institute will most likely be co-located in the future, said President and CEO of the New York City Economic Development Corporation James Patchett who joined the mayor for the announcement. “We just want to ensure that that we maximize the existing organizations in New York City and scale them up to have this expertise in pandemic response,” Patchett told reporters. “We see a substantial economic development opportunity here.”