A new push is underway backed by state funds to develop more pharmaceutical industry businesses in the Richmond region.
Activation Capital, an entrepreneurship-support and economic development organization in the Richmond area, announced Monday it will develop an accelerator program aimed at fostering or attracting more businesses in pharmaceutical manufacturing and research to central Virginia.
A coalition of private-public entities from the Richmond and Petersburg area helped form the accelerator and secured $2.5 million in seed funding from GO Virginia and other funders. Activation Capital has been named as the organizing entity — a first-of-its-kind initiative in the state of Virginia.
GO Virginia is a state-funded and business-led state economic development program that backs initiatives to create high-wage jobs in strategic industries.
The money will go toward several initiatives, said Chandra Briggman, president and CEO of Activation Capital. That will include attracting and cultivating new pharmaceutical businesses in the region as well as developing new lab space for those businesses.
“Right now, the Bio+Tech Park [in downtown Richmond] is the hub of lab space in central Virginia,” Briggman said. “So this will go to building lab space.”
Another element is developing pilot space for industries, along with workforce development. “The near term is to make sure we have enough individuals who can work in the industry,” Briggman said.
The accelerator program is aimed at building off of work now underway to develop a major pharmaceutical products manufacturing campus in Petersburg.
That work is a joint project between Phlow Corp. — which was co-founded last year by Eric Edwards, a Richmond entrepreneur and doctor, and VCU professor and chemical scientist Frank Gupton — and several partner organizations to develop a low-cost supply of medicines that face shortages in the U.S. market.
In May 2020, Phlow announced it had received a $354 million federal contract to help build a national reserve of essential medicines and to make active ingredients for more than a dozen medicines used to treat patients with COVID-19.
Phlow has partnered with VCU’s Medicines for All Institute, led by Gupton, and with AMPAC Fine Chemicals, a pharmaceuticals maker with a plant in Petersburg. Another partner is Civica Inc., a nonprofit formed by various U.S. health care providers to address chronic generic drug shortages.
Civica announced in January that it plans to invest $124.5 million to establish its first in-house pharmaceutical manufacturing operation on Normandy Drive in Petersburg near the AMPAC factory. Construction work is now underway on the Civica plant.
A board with representatives from 12 different organizations will oversee the new accelerator program.
The board has named Robby Demeria, chief of staff for Phlow and Virginia’s former deputy secretary of commerce and trade, as founding chairman. Jeff Gallagher, a 25-year life sciences industry veteran, has been named interim executive director.