Trump Admin Taps Virginia Company to Make COVID-19 Medicines

Feds contract Richmond company to make U.S. COVID-19 drug supply

The award Tuesday from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services comes amid a heightened awareness of coronavirus-fueled disruptions of pharmaceutical supply chains that has spotlighted this country's reliance on China and other countries for the manufacture of most of its medicines.

"BARDA has long focused on expanding pharmaceutical manufacturing infrastructure in the USA, not only to develop and produce vaccines, but also for essential medicines, and their key ingredients used to make these drugs", said BARDA Acting Director, Dr. Gary Disbrow.

Frank Gupton, PhD., co-founder of Phlow, chair of Virginia Commonwealth University's Department of Chemical and Life Science Engineering and CEO of the Medicines for All Institute, in Richmond, Va.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought greater scrutiny to the US medical supply chain, much of which depends on overseas manufacturing.

According to HHS, Phlow under the initial four-year contract will manufacture the specified APIs, chemical compounds, and generic drugs at advanced manufacturing facilities using processes meant to produce higher yields, less waste, and lower costs, such as continuous manufacturing, instead of the traditional step-by-step approach that pharmaceutical companies typically use.

The total contract could increase to $812 million over 10 years if an option for an additional $458 million is exercised.

Numerous active ingredients in medicines and the starting materials needed to make them are produced overseas, and the coronavirus pandemic had heightened fears that the U.S.is overly reliant on drug imports that could be disrupted in an emergency, particularly from China and India.

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According to Reuters, BARDA had released an open request in regards to the contract, and Phlow, which already produces dozens of medicines that providers are using to treat hospitalized patients with Covid-19, responded with a drug-manufacturing proposal.

Under the deal, the drug manufacturer Phlow will work to manufacture essential drugs and create an active reserve to reduce dependence on overseas suppliers, the company said. The company said it is working to build advanced manufacturing capability in Virginia, as well as sterile injectables manufacturing facilities. The medicines include antibiotics, and drugs used for sedation for patients on ventilators, and pain management.

Trump announced plans for building up the national stockpile last week.

The award drew plaudits from Virginia's US senators and representatives, though it could take at least a year or more for Phlow to open its initial plant, apparently slated for Petersburg.

"We're not going to be able to snap our fingers and ... all of a sudden all of our medicines are made in the U.S.", Francer added.

The company is run by Eric Edwards, who previously founded the drug company Kaleo Pharmaceuticals with his twin brother.

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