Central Va. pharma hub strategic plan released
VCU announces strategy to drive business and job growth in region
On Tuesday, the Virginia Commonwealth University College of Engineering announced its strategy to turn Central Virginia into an advanced pharmaceutical manufacturing, research and development hub.
The strategic plan aims to foster business and job growth in the Richmond-Petersburg area while also expanding access to medicines. The creation of the plan was funded by a $100,000 planning grant from the state’s GO Virginia economic development initiative and a $100,000 matching grant from university, regional companies and economic development organizations. More than 50 individuals from dozens of organizations across the region participated in the yearlong strategic planning process. The recommendations were presented to GO Virginia’s regional council on March 31.
In May 2020, Richmond-based Phlow Corp. was awarded a $354 million, four-year federal contract from the U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) to produce the essential medications using advanced manufacturing processes from the Medicines for All Institute based at VCU’s College of Engineering. The effort is an attempt to secure the U.S. drug supply chain through the manufacturing, supplying and stockpiling of active pharmaceutical ingredients for essential medicines.
Phlow is also in a partnership with Utah-based pharmaceutical manufacturer Civica Inc., which plans to invest $124.5 million to establish its North American manufacturing headquarters operation in Petersburg, creating 186 jobs and manufacturing injectable medicines for the treatment of COVID-19. A nonprofit generic drug company, Civica was established in 2018 by a group of U.S. health systems and philanthropic organizations to address chronic generic drug shortages and related price spikes. More than 50 health systems are Civica members.
In Petersburg, Phlow, Civica and a coalition of hospital systems have begun construction of multimillion dollar advanced manufacturing facilities collocated with AMPAC Fine Chemicals. AMPAC is supplying Phlow with active pharmaceutical ingredients for the manufacturing of essential medicines for a national strategic reserve.
To further developments like these, VCU’s Department of Engineering released recommendations that include:
- Forming a new regional advanced pharmaceutical manufacturing council to coordinate action toward growing the cluster, with membership from higher education, private businesses and government.
- Moving to satisfy the current demand for lab space throughout the region and put in place long-term solutions.
- Working with the Community College Workforce Alliance, John Tyler Community College, Virginia Economic Development Partnership and the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing to create new, comprehensive training programs for advanced pharmaceutical manufacturing technicians in order to support the efforts of Phlow, AMPAC and Civica .
- Seeking strategic-level federal support for investments to develop a translational research and development center and a national center of excellence for continuous pharmaceutical manufacturing.
Developing an advanced pharmaceutical manufacturing hub in Richmond and Petersburg “will create thousands of high-paying jobs, providing a magnet for talent and investment that will establish the region as a globally recognized leader in advanced pharmaceutical manufacturing,” said Frank Gupton, CEO of the Medicines for All Institute and co-founder of Phlow, in a statement.