Civica Rx lays out $124M sterile injectables plant, pegged to supply COVID-19 drugs and more

Last spring, upstart generics maker Civica Rx joined forces with the brand-new Phlow Corp. in a push to “onshore” U.S. drug manufacturing and supply essential meds to hospitals fighting the pandemic. Now, the company is blueprinting a dedicated plant to do just that. 

Civica is laying out $124.5 million to build a sterile injectable manufacturing facility in Petersburg, Virginia—part of its team-up with the once obscure Phlow, which rose to prominence last year on the back of a massive government contract to produce COVID-19-related drugs.

Construction has already started on the 120,000-square-foot plant, pegged to come online within the next three years, Civica said (PDF). The facility will ultimately crank out 90 million vials and 50 million prefilled syringes per year, focusing on drugs for COVID-19 patients as well as meds used in emergency rooms, intensive care units and surgeries.

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The plant will come equipped with disposable technology and advanced filling lines, plus temperature-controlled warehousing for raw materials and finished drugs. It will be kitted out to perform steam sterilization, plus automated packaging and visual inspection and is “built to accommodate future growth.”

A leadership team is already in place, with more hiring set to begin this quarter, Civica said. The facility will ultimately employ some 180 workers.

Civica—a generics maker formed in 2018 to combat drug shortages and the price spikes that ensue—has long been gunning for a U.S. manufacturing operation of its own, with the Petersburg plant “a dream come true” for the company, CEO Martin VanTrieste said in a release.

It also marks Civica’s role in a broader partnership with Phlow, enlisted early last year in the Trump administration’s push to boost drug manufacturing stateside.

Phlow in May signed a $354 million contract with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development authority (BARDA) to build a generic medicine and active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) factory in Richmond, Virginia. That deal—one of the largest BARDA’s ever awarded—can be expanded up to 10 years for a total of $812 million. Civica’s task is to churn out finished drugs in vials and syringes for its own member hospitals as well as the U.S. Strategic National Stockpile.

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Phlow’s notoriety bump, which drew a fair amount of heat last spring—the company’s CEO, Eric Edwards, previously ran the show at Kaléo, infamous for hiking the price of an EpiPen competitor 700%—followed a chat between Edwards and Civica chief VanTrieste more than a year earlier. The two had struck up a conversation to discuss generic drug manufacturing, VanTrieste told Fierce Pharma at the time of the loan announcement.

Edwards “wanted to know if I would teach him the Civica model,” he said. “So we brought him in to shadow us, and he started learning about the over-reliance in the pharmaceutical supply chain on foreign suppliers.”

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Phlow was one of several companies tapped in the “onshoring” manufacturing push last year, fueled by a pandemic that put the nation’s dependence on overseas APIs into sharp focus. In May, the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation unveiled a $765 million loan to support camera maker Kodak’s plunge into the generic drug making game.

Questionable stock moves that led to an investigation by House Democrats and the Securities and Exchange Commission put Kodak’s plans on the rocks, though the company in September cleared itself of wrongdoing. CEO Jim Continenza later defended his company’s handling of the loan plans and reiterated Kodak’s intention to break into API making—with or without government support.