Alliance for Building Better Medicine Names Joy Polefrone as Executive Director

Joy Polefrone, Ph.D. will Lead the Organization in Its Mission to Create a Reliable Supply of Safe, High-Quality, and Affordable Medicines in the U.S.

Richmond/Petersburg– Alliance for Building Better Medicine, a coalition of public and private sector stakeholders in the Richmond-Petersburg region, today announced that it has appointed Joy Marie Polefrone, Ph.D., as the organization’s executive director. Polefrone will succeed Jeff Gallagher, Interim Executive Director at the Alliance for Building Better Medicine, as the organization works to further accelerate the development of the advanced pharmaceutical and manufacturing cluster emerging in Central Virginia. 

“Joy Polefrone brings a unique and extraordinary collection of skill and experiences to this great opportunity for the region and nation — science, industry, innovation, collaboration and a passion for this region,” said Gallagher. “I’m honored that she will carry on our shared mission to create a new and transformative era of health and wellness that is made possible by our region’s advanced manufacturing ecosystem that will produce the world’s most important medicines.”

Polefrone joins the Alliance for Building Better Medicine during a period of rapid growth as the coalition embraces equitable economic growth, creates well-paying jobs, and improves access to affordable, high-quality medicines. Beginning in 2020, through an initiative of VCU’s College of Engineering, a coalition of public and private sector partners was formed to design a regional strategy for advanced pharmaceutical manufacturing leveraging existing assets. The coalition was awarded seed funding from GO Virginia and others totaling $2.5 million. Members of the growing coalition quickly began developing opportunities for the emerging cluster to involve and impact the entire region and its many diverse communities – urban and rural, students, entrepreneurs, small business owners, veterans, and low-income and minority populations disproportionately impacted by economic distress and the COVID-19 pandemic.

In September 2022, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) announced that public and private sector stakeholders in the Richmond-Petersburg region working together at the Alliance for Building Better Medicine would receive $52,942,702 as winners of the national Build Back Better Regional Challenge. The coalition was one of only 21 coalitions among over 500 regions nationally to receive funding. The Build Back Better Regional Challenge grant is being matched by $13,607,184 of funding from local private and public organizations for a total Build Back Better Regional Challenge investment of $66,549,886. In addition, Governor Youngkin recently announced an additional $44.6 million invested by the Commonwealth in the 2022/23 budget, on top of millions of dollars of state support over the previous three years designed to further boost Virginia’s economy and provide high-quality jobs. 

With more than two decades of experience in business leadership and organizational strategy in the healthcare industry, Polefrone joins the Alliance as executive director effective November 14, 2022. In her role, she will work closely with the founding leadership board to include Activation Capital, City of Petersburg, City of Richmond, Phlow, AMPAC Fine Chemicals, Civica Inc., Community College Workforce Alliance, Greater Richmond Partnership, Medicines for All Institute at Virginia Commonwealth University’s College of Engineering, Virginia Economic Development Partnership, Virginia’s Gateway Region, Virginia State University, and Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing, as well as with new members such as Walmart and the U.S. Pharmacopeia.

“I have been deeply impressed and inspired by the bold, collaborative vision and work of the Alliance members and broader stakeholders to build something ground-breaking together, which will not only deliver a tremendous impact to the region, nation, and the world in the development of affordable essential medicines, it will also change the landscape of opportunity for this region and its communities,” said Polefrone. “There are very few moments in one’s professional career where they get the opportunity to contribute to a vision and mission so distinctly aligned with their passion, and for me, this is one of those moments. It is truly an honor to have the opportunity to serve as Executive Director for the Alliance.”

A native of Virginia, Polefrone will draw upon a diverse, global career that covers scientific academic research in healthcare, non-profit startup and leadership, designing and growing a venture in a prominent health tech company, and leading people strategy for one of its largest business units. Prior to joining the Alliance, Polefrone worked in health innovation and entrepreneurship at VCU and VCUH, including as Director of Health Innovations at VCU’s da Vinci Center in Richmond, VA. She earned a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Virginia and a B.S. in chemistry at James Madison University. 

“As Interim Executive Director at the Alliance for Building Better Medicine, Jeff Gallagher helped foster a deeply connected region focused on transformational change,” said Chandra Briggman, president and CEO of Activation Capital, an innovation ecosystem development organization that led the formation of the Alliance. “I am confident that Joy will carry forward the Alliance’s commitment to collaboration with its diverse constituents as we deliver complementary projects designed to expand our region’s infrastructure, workforce, supply chain, R&D, and innovation capacity. Together, we will continue to embrace equitable economic growth and enhance U.S. global competitiveness under Joy’s leadership.” 

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