UI drug manufacturer, tester, and developer looks to expand

BY AMY MATTSON | JUNE 25, 2009 7:21 AM

UI Pharmaceuticals officials have been looking for more room — and more hands — to revitalize production and revive its image.

A service division of the UI College of Pharmacy, the group manufactures, tests, and develops drugs for clients — including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Food and Drug Administration, and National Cancer Institute. It produces products both commercially and for clinical trials.

UI Pharmaceuticals is developing additional laboratory facilities at Oakdale Research Park. It has snatched up the space from ASL Analytical, a local scientific research company that vacated the property.

Now, with its new nest established, the group is looking to line it by recruiting pharmacy-school faculty. Though UI Pharmaceuticals and faculty have previously collaborated, the pair have formalized relations, teaming up underneath the UI Pharmaceuticals Development Consortium.

The Oakdale expansion and consortium creation are unrelated, Director Mickey Wells said. But they represent the new face of recently renamed UI Pharmaceuticals — a face he hopes will generate business.

“We’re trying to get the word out that we’re here,” he said, pointing to new brochures and a redesigned website.

Furthermore, laboratory relocation aims to draw employees closer together — literally. The expansion, scheduled to take place by year’s end, will eliminate some employees’ commute between Iowa City and the Oakdale Campus.

The enlargement of the Research Park facility will allow method development and quality control analysts to work under the same roof — a “helpful internal move” that could improve efficiency, said Wells.

“It’ll be a nice change,” he said.

UI Pharmaceuticals currently operates with 75 full-time employees — mostly pharmacists, chemists, and equipment operators. And, despite its small size, Wells noted the group’s “unique” fusion of business and educational involvement.

“We want to pull professors in on projects that will use their expertise,” he said.

Wells also expressed hopes to become more active in undergraduate education. He wants to begin taking part in undergraduate courses, giving student demonstrations and tours.

With new faces and a new facility, the business has the potential to increase its drug production output. But Wells doubts the recently acquired 900 square feet in Oakdale Research Park will generate additional revenue. It is only a small addition to the current 6,000-square-foot location.

And most of the 40 to 80 annual clients UI Pharmaceuticals caters are small companies — hit hard by economic woes, Wells said.

As UI Pharmaceuticals manager Steve Slezak noted, the push for expanding at Oakdale was more about space and less about finance.

“We’re pretty stuffed in here.” he said. “Any new room is helpful.”

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