The United States Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration Friday announced that a coalition of public and private sector actors in the Richmond-Petersburg area, including Virginia Commonwealth University, will receive nearly $53 million as one of 21 winners of the national competition. Regional Build Back Better Challenge.
As EDA marquee US rescue planThe regional Build Back Better Challenge is “centered on a vision that as our economy recovers and modernizes, as science and technology accelerate and change the nature of how we manufacture, we want workers and small businesses are leading this transition, making sure they are a part of it…instead of fearing it will leave them behind,” said US President Joe Biden in a press conference Friday.
The Richmond-Petersburg coalition — Alliance for Building Better Medicine — strives to develop the region’s manufacturing and research and development hub for advanced pharmaceutical products in order to meet the country’s pressing need for quality and affordable essential medicines. Coalition members will leverage funding from the regional Build Back Better Challenge – which will be complemented by more than $13.3 million in funding from private and public organizations, for a total investment of nearly $77.8 million – for six construction and programmatic projects.
“This grant supports academic pathways, training opportunities, research collaborations, facilities, and mentorship to prepare graduates to advance manufacturing and technologies in the region,” said Gregory E. Triplettdoctorate professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at VCU College of Engineering and lead researcher on the coalition’s workforce development and education arm. “It also provides resources to help attract, promote and advance the careers of many people in STEM. We maximize opportunities by using multi-institutional collaborations.
Medicines for all at VCU is the cornerstone of the coalition, which was formed in 2020 through an initiative by VCU’s College of Engineering to design a regional strategy for advanced pharmaceutical manufacturing by leveraging existing assets.
“Medicines for All provides two really important elements for the success of this in our efforts to build this regional center for advanced pharmaceutical manufacturing,” said B.Frank Gupton, Ph.D., CEO of Medicines for All. “One is the work Medicines for All is doing directly to provide low-cost processes to produce these drugs. But just as important is the workforce development component on which we collaborate with Virginia State University.
The coalition came together again in 2021 to accelerate the development of an advanced pharmaceutical manufacturing cluster in central Virginia. The coalition received seed funding from GO Virginia and others for a total of $2.5 million.
“This public-private partnership is critical as it ensures employers will have access to the region’s top talent,” Triplett said. “The partnership with an HBCU – VSU – demonstrates the strength of the region, and the academic paths are examples of what a national model can be. It introduces the possibilities to those who may not be aware of the opportunities in the pharmaceutical sector and provides high-level training to meet future challenges. »
Members of the growing coalition quickly began to develop opportunities for the emerging cluster to engage and impact the entire region and its many communities – urban and rural, students, entrepreneurs, small business owners, veterans and low-income and minority populations disproportionately affected by the economy. distress and the COVID-19 pandemic – with the aim of creating well-paying jobs and careers for people with a wide range of education levels and experiences.
In 2021, the coalition won Phase 1 of the regional Build Back Better Challenge and began detailed planning for the six now-funded projects with support from Activation Capital, the cities of Petersburg and Richmond, Civica Inc., Community College Workforce Alliance, Greater Richmond Partnership, Medicines for All Institute at Virginia Commonwealth University, VCU College of Engineering, Virginia Economic Development Partnership, Virginia’s Gateway Region, Virginia State University, Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing, GENEDGE, Brightpoint Community College, and Reynolds Community College.
The alliance will use the EDA funding opportunity to build a center to accelerate manufacturing innovation and commercialization of laboratory discoveries. This first-of-its-kind facility will drive collaboration, invention and investment by accelerating laboratory-scale discoveries to commercial scale.
“It’s not just the employers in the area,” said Gupton, professor and president of the Department of Chemical Engineering and Life Sciences at the VCU College of Engineering and the Floyd D. Gottwald, Jr. Professorship in Pharmaceutical Engineering at VCU. “These are new companies that are going to move in with us to try to take advantage of the technology opportunities that are going to be created both with the funding and the ongoing work that we’re doing to build a more cost-effective platform for manufacturing tip. drugs.”
The funding will be used to develop new joint degree and research programs between VCU and VSU and industry partners, as well as manufacturing technician training at BCC and laboratory technician training at RCC, coordinated by the Community College Workforce Alliance.
Additionally, the funds will be used to build an Innovation Center with additional wet lab space in Richmond’s Virginia Bio+Tech Park, located adjacent to VCU’s MCV campus, to help existing organizations in the region develop. EDA’s support will enable local and regional economic development organizations to accelerate the development in the region of the supply chain needed to produce new research, sales, service and manufacturing facilities, as well as new jobs in the Richmond-Petersburg region.
“We are building a talented and diverse workforce for the growing pharmaceutical industry in central Virginia,” Triplett said. “Virginia is poised to be the national pharmaceutical manufacturing hub. With expertise in the region, including research from our faculty, we will continue to push boundaries and achieve what is possible when we have a common goal.
EDA funds will also support water and wastewater infrastructure improvements in Petersburg’s Poor Creek service area, which serves growing manufacturing facilities.
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