The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted urgent problems with pharmaceutical sourcing and manufacturing. With drugs and medical supplies in short supply during spikes, logistics and supply chain have become familiar terms.

It’s not surprising, then, that the Richmond Technology Council awarded the Outstanding Collaboration in Tech Award to Phlow USA & VCU Engineering’s Medicines for All (M4ALL) Institute last month, a collaboration built to address just these issues.

Phlow partners with M4ALL, Civica Rx, a leading nonprofit supplier of affordable generic medications, and AMPAC Fine Chemicals, a pharmaceutical ingredient manufacturer, to create an end-to-end pharma supply company handling research, development and manufacturing in the US. Phlow’s vision has gained urgency and support during the pandemic and has been awarded a $354 million federal contract to make COVID 19 drugs.

That vision dovetails with M4ALL’s mission to increase access to health care for those who need it most. M4ALL CEO and founder Frank Gupton is a Phlow co-founder, as well as the Floyd D. Gottwald Jr. Chair in Pharmaceutical Engineering and chair of the Department of Chemical and Life Science Engineering at VCU.

“We are very excited to see this innovative partnership taking off,” said CCALS Director Mark Manasco. “We’ve partnered with VCU’s Pharmaceutical Engineering folks for some of the projects that preceded this effort. We have tremendous respect for them, and for what’s taking place at Phlow.”

Tom Roper is Director of Pharmaceutical Engineering at VCU. In addition to supporting the Phlow partnership, he has worked to develop medical storage and transport technologies to alleviate some of these same issues, and that rely heavily on medical supply chain logistics – expertise that CCALS provided.

“Working with CCALS on this project, and on other department projects, gave us the expertise we needed,” Roper said. “They were an integral part of the project and reinforced the value of bringing logistics expertise into the process.

“It’s exciting to see what can happen with partnerships like this and our work with Phlow. We need to get all of our best resources at the table, to turn out the best solutions possible.”

Time is of the essence. Manufacturing facilities are planned for the Petersburg area, creating over 300 jobs for a central Virginia workforce that is ready and skilled. Production and distribution are expected in early 2021.

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