A newly announced pharmaceutical lab facility is expanding a local company’s footprint while introducing a newcomer to the area.
Shockoe Slip-based Phlow Corp. and Maryland-based nonprofit U.S. Pharmacopeia held a ribbon-cutting Monday at their new Advanced Pharmaceutical Development Center in the Bio+Tech Park in downtown Richmond.
The center occupies about 5,000 square feet in total, and each company has dedicated lab space in addition to shared offices in the center.
Phlow CEO and co-founder Eric Edwards said the facilities open the door to an expansion of the firm’s research and development services beyond the U.S. government to clients in the private sector. The company was founded with the goal to establish a secure domestic supply of medicines and pharmaceutical ingredients through new technology and American-based manufacturing.
Edwards said in a brief interview after Monday’s event that Phlow had two confirmed commercial clients for its contracted R&D service but he declined to name the firms. He said Phlow was in talks with about a half dozen more clients for the service.
“We have a new customer base, which would be pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical companies who are interested in leveraging this unique setup where we can help with advanced manufacturing processes for their active pharmaceutical ingredients,” he said. “Typically, when a drug company is building a new drug and new active ingredient, they usually have to rely on old, antiquated batch manufacturing processes or old techniques and they sometimes have to go outside the United States to find someone to make the active ingredient. Now, we can help them with their process here.”
U.S. Pharmacopeia, a firm with a global presence that’s operated for more than 200 years, develops medicine standards and testing methods that are then used by regulators and manufacturers. The company will continue that work in the Richmond center, which marks its first flag to be planted in the local area.
U.S. Pharmacopeia CEO Ronald Piervincenzi said at Monday’s event that the nonprofit’s research complements Phlow’s work by figuring out safety standards both for Phlow’s creations and for other companies.
“At USP, we’re doing the thinking, if you will. The upfront thinking of how you measure quality,” Piervincenzi said in an interview after the event. “We do enough testing on our own to create the method and the companies and the regulators are the ones who actually do the testing.”
Both companies expect to be fully up and running the space in early 2023. Up to 15 scientists across both firms are expected to work at the center.
The lab is at 506 E. Jackson St. It occupies a portion of the fourth floor of Biotech 8, a building in the Bio+Tech Park. Phlow expects to invest $5 million to $10 million in its facilities at the center, according to Edwards. U.S. Pharmacopeia anticipates an investment of $2 million to $4 million for its part.
The announcement of the research lab also comes as Phlow is working on opening manufacturing facilities in Petersburg next year and the following year. The company is expected to continue to keep its headquarters in the Riverside on the James building at 1001 Haxall Point.
Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade Caren Merrick also spoke at the event. The companies first announced their plans for a joint lab in early 2021.
Though both organizations are members of the Alliance for Building Better Medicine, a Richmond-Petersburg regional group that is developing a pharmaceutical manufacturing hub, the lab that was ceremoniously opened this week isn’t directly under the regional group’s banner.
Phlow is a founding member of the Alliance for Building Better Medicine, which also includes Activation Capital, the cities of Richmond and Petersburg, nonprofit drug maker Civica and other groups. U.S. Pharmacopeia joined the group in the fall, along with Walmart.
Phlow and U.S. Pharmacopeia’s center is located near the site of a future expansion of the Bio+Tech Park, fueled by federal funding recently awarded to the Alliance for Building Better Medicine. Bio+Tech Park is operated by Activation Capital, which supports local startups and entrepreneurship with its programming.