Ken Brown, JD, MPA, PhD, FACHE, executive vice chancellor and chief operations officer at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC), traveled to China earlier this month to participate in an international conference sponsored by the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation to discuss global concerns related to pharmaceutical supply chain security. The conference also focused on the counterfeit pharmaceutical industry, manufacturing practices, shipping and distribution networks. The trip to Qingdao reflects UTHSC’s growing interests and efforts in pharmaceutical discovery, development and manufacturing.
Other concerns discussed centered on internet pharmaceutical sales, counterfeit pharmaceutical trafficking and pharmaceutical cargo thefts, Dr. Brown said.
UTHSC will begin construction of an approximately $12 million Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) facility for drug development and production in late summer or early fall. While in China, Dr. Brown visited Harbin Medical University to tour its pharmaceutical manufacturing facility, grow UTHSC’s successful partnership with Harbin that already includes student exchanges, and explore future joint pharmaceutical manufacturing and distribution possibilities.
“At Harbin, they have a pharmaceutical manufacturing facility, and because we’re in the throes of building a facility like that ourselves, I wanted to take a look at their facility,” Dr. Brown said. “Our facility will certainly be much smaller in scale, but we talked with them about being able to be engaged as a partner to our production facility, so as we move from smaller projects into larger volumes of production, we will have a GMP-quality facility that can do large-scale products for us.”
Dr. Brown said plans call for breaking ground in late August or September on the UTHSC facility, which will be built in a recently purchased building on the outskirts of campus. Construction should last 12 to 18 months. Since the Plough Foundation gave $4.5 million in initial seed money to support the development of the GMP facility, the building will bear its name. “Because of that initial seed money, this facility got traction and it’s going to ultimately come to fruition,” Dr. Brown said. “So, as a testament to the university’s appreciation to the Plough Foundation, it will be named as the Plough Center for Sterile Pharmaceutical Manufacturing at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center.”
UTHSC has approached several pharmaceutical companies about doing production work for them, and is working to develop international partners, Dr. Brown said. Meanwhile, four labs on the second floor of the Van Vleet Building on campus have been renovated for training classes for the pharmaceutical industry on aseptic manufacturing and pharmaceutical compounding. Some small-scale cleanroom projects will be handled in the Van Vleet Building, which is serving as the home to the GMP facility staff while the Plough Center is being constructed.
“As we get the GMP facility built, we’re working on our business strategy for getting customers in the pipeline,” Dr. Brown said. “Hopefully, in 12 months when the facility is commissioned by the FDA and ready to come online, we’ve got a pipeline of customers that already want us to do pharmaceutical manufacturing for them.” In support of its drug development effort, UTHSC will also do production for clinical trial efforts.