Krystal Biotech broke ground Friday morning on a massive new facility, creating approximately 70 jobs, in a 100,000-square-foot building near the airport in Findlay Twp. It will go by the name ASTRA.

The company is working on the first-ever topically applied gene therapy treatment to help children living with a rare skin disease called dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa. The disease makes the skin blister or tear at the slightest touch, and is currently considered incurable.

“They do rapid gene therapy that really targets rare skin diseases,” says Mark Anthony Thomas, president of the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance. “Their entire supply chain, from scientists to production, will be here in the region.”

Calling it the largest biotech investment in the region to date, Thomas adds, “It’s further proof point that as a life sciences company, you can thrive here in Pittsburgh.”

Currently, Krystal Biotech is headquartered on the South Side where they will maintain a presence.

Krystal Biotech lab. Photo courtesy of Krystal Biotech.

“We are very excited to announce the creation of ASTRA, which will be a global resource for production of gene therapies with the potential to bring new treatments to rare disease patients around the world,” says Krish S. Krishnan, chairman and CEO of Krystal Biotech.

“In a vibrant market, this is the type of news we’d be celebrating on a pretty regular basis,” says Thomas. “If you see an uptick in this type of news, it’s because more companies are starting to thrive in pretty innovative spaces here.”

Thomas credits the universities that produce the science that is revolutionizing healthcare. “Historically … once the technology is created, the companies built from that technology would most likely happen in other places,” he notes.

Krystal Biotech will be part of a life sciences cluster developing around the airport corridor.

Manufacturing at Krystal Biotech. Photo courtesy of Krystal Biotech.

“If you’re an outsider like myself, we all know great scientists and talent from Pittsburgh in other places,” says Thomas. “This is a great proof point, that not only can you create and invent great technology here, you can bring it to life in a commercial form, and create lots of jobs and opportunities for people here. That’s important for us, to keep a lot of the talent from leaving, and keep our greatest minds creating great products here.”

Michael Machosky is a writer and journalist with 18 years of experience writing about everything from development news, food and film to art, travel, books and music. He lives in Greenfield with his wife, Shaunna, and 10-year old son.