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White House to award $52.9 million grant to Va. Biotech authority

The Richmond region has won a $52.9 million federal grant to create a hub for research and advanced manufacturing of essential medicines and pharmaceutical ingredients.

The White House announced the grant to the Virginia Biotechnology Research Partnership Authority on Friday. It is among 21 projects that will receive grants from the Build Back Better Regional Challenge, using a $1 billion fund created under the American Rescue Plan Act to generate economic opportunities in disadvantaged communities that need them.

The grant will support six projects in the proposed Advanced Manufacturing Pharmaceutical Cluster, an initiative aimed at bringing new manufacturing opportunities to Petersburg, supporting research at the Virginia Bio + Tech Park in Richmond and boosting work by the Medicines for All Institute at Virginia Commonwealth University to build a national supply of essential medicines.

“The Advanced Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Cluster will generate a major boost to an emerging, regional industry of critical importance to American global competitiveness,” U.S. Secretary of Commerce and Trade Gina Raimondo said in an announcement of the grant.

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., who helped shape and pass the American Rescue Plan Act almost 18 months ago, said he had pushed the U.S. Department of Commerce to approve the grant.

“This support will continue to strengthen the foundation and accelerate the growth of pharmaceutical manufacturing in the United States,” Warner said. “As a proud supporter of the American Rescue Plan, I am glad to see that Virginia continues to reap the benefits through job creation and economic growth.”

A regional coalition had sought up to $100 million for the pharmaceutical initiative. It already had received a $500,000 federal planning grant as one of 60 finalists — out of 529 applicants — in the regional challenge.

The coalition includes:

  • Activation Capital, its fiduciary agent and a supporter of technology, biotechnology and entrepreneurial businesses in the Richmond area;
  • AMPAC Fine Chemicals, a pharmaceutical manufacturer in Petersburg;
  • the cities of Petersburg and Richmond;
  • Civica Inc., a nonprofit organization that supplies critical generic drugs to health care providers;
  • the Community College Workforce Alliance;
  • the Greater Richmond Partnership and the Virginia Economic Development Partnership;
  • the Medicines for All Institute at VCU;
  • Phlow Corp., a Richmond pharmaceutical company that received a $354 million federal contract two years ago to build a national reserve of essential medicines and manufacture active ingredients for more than a dozen medicines used to treat patients with COVID-19;
  • Virginia’s Gateway Region; and
  • Virginia State University.

The initiative includes six programs to: develop water and sewer systems to serve the new manufacturing operations; expand laboratory space at the Bio-Tech Park; build a pilot facility to accelerate research and laboratory achievements; create a technicians certificate program for community college training in advanced pharmaceutical manufacturing; develop joint degree and research programs at VCU and Virginia State; and recruit new supplies for a supply chain to support the pharmaceutical cluster.

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