The Pharma Cluster Coalition: Alliance for Building Better Medicine

Alliance for Building Better Medicine Article
VSU-Pharma Cluster Coalition
Posted on April 21, 2022

Virginia State University in collaboration with several strategic partners including but not limited to The Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing (CCAM), Phlow Corp., AMPAC Fine Chemicals, the cities of Petersburg and Richmond, United States Strategic Pharmaceutical Ingredient Reserve, and Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) submitted a comprehensive proposal to the Build Back Better Regional Challenge (BBBRC) to establish an advanced pharmaceutical cluster in Central Virginia.

The Alliance for Building Better Medicine, a curated coalition of partnerships, is currently a finalist for the $1billion Build Back Better Regional Challenge. Over 500 proposals from regions across the nation were submitted to Economic Development Administration (EDA), yet only 60 were selected to advance to Phase 2 of the selection process. Coalitions chosen will receive awards of up to $100 million each to accelerate the development of an advanced pharma manufacturing and research and development cluster in their respective region.

For far too long Americans have been dependent on a poorly flawed global supply chain for our country’s most essential pharmaceuticals, critical medicines, semi-conductors, and electric batteries etc. since domestic manufacturing has been off shored to foreign entities. The onset of the Corona Virus Pandemic exposed the widening manufacturing gap and as such, the primary goal of establishing the Pharma Cluster is to make the US more self-reliant in the manufacturing arena. Virginia State University is committed to being a meaningful partner in the pharma cluster. As VSU offers the only manufacturing engineering degree in the state, they have an impressive record of providing access and opportunities for students of color and remain committed to diversifying the American engineering workforce. VSU, as part of the BBBRC grant, proposed $8 million to fund lab infrastructure and to establish a VSU/VCU academic pathway in pharmaceutical engineering.

The College of Engineering and Technology at VSU in collaboration with Dinwiddie County Airport is developing training programs in aviation and air traffic management, establishing a center of innovation for manufacturing of drones, and promoting research in UAVs (data acquisitions, cyber security and mitigating threats, and applications.) In addition to VSU engineering students pursuing advanced degrees and excelling in their respective internship programs, the College of Engineering and Technology is partnering with ALU at Fort Lee to facilitate course sharing in Logistics and Project Management Programs and to enhance faculty-to-faculty research collaborations in areas of AI, Machine Learning, and Cyber Security. VSU is well prepared to educate students in manufacturing engineering with world class resources and advanced technologies.

“The cluster will invest in strengthening the regional economy through infrastructure, innovation, workforce, and supply chain developments. The proposed VSU-VCU joint program will cultivate talents through new dual degree program, accelerated graduate program, internships, and paid-credit-bearing-applied-learning experience,” Dr. Dawit Haile, Dean of The College of Engineering and Technology, said. “It will provide a learning pathway in pharmaceutical engineering for students at VSU.  Graduates from the program will have bright future in advanced pharmaceutical manufacturing careers.”

The  BBBRC grant would positively impact economic development in the region and usher in advanced technology, educational access to marginalized communities, and ultimately create more internship and employment opportunities for our students. A collaboration with strategic partners in the coalition offers an opportunity for intensive progress enhancement in Chemistry and manufacturing engineering at VSU while curating a pipeline program with VCU for students to engage in rigorous graduate work and for faculty to conduct ground-breaking research in the biotech industry.

Essentially, an award of this magnitude from the Department of Commerce would directly impact regional infrastructure development, provide for the enhancement of manufacturing labs, and fund new biotech facilities.