CORONAVIRUS

University of Iowa Pharmaceuticals makes hand sanitizer for UI hospitals

It also is collaborating on COVID-19 vaccines, treatments

The main entrance to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics is shown alongside the new University of Iowa Children
The main entrance to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics is shown alongside the new University of Iowa Children’s Hospital in Iowa City. (The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — With the novel coronavirus fanning out across the country, spiking demand for protective equipment and products, the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics is looking for help no farther than its neighbor to the east — the UI College of Pharmacy.

At UIHC’s request, after the college’s Dean Don Letendre raised the possibility, UI Pharmaceuticals — a service division within the college — earlier this month began researching how to make hand sanitizer.

After configuring its equipment to safely produce limited quantities of the increasingly precious solution, UI Pharmaceuticals — using a hand sanitizer formula from the World Health Organization — delivered its first shipment of the 80 percent alcohol solution to UIHC on March 23, according to UI Pharmaceutical Director Dennis Erb and Director of Business Development Randhall Yeates.

Each batch takes about four hours to make and bottle, and the UI division to date has manufactured four batches of 95 liters of the mixture — or 380 liters total.

UIHC is compensating UI Pharmaceuticals for the materials and labor. The division didn’t disclose how much the health care enterprise has paid.

And although sanitizer is experiencing widespread demand due to the virus and supply shortages, UI Pharmaceuticals is prioritizing its production for UIHC, “as hand sanitizer is not a typical product that we produce,” according to Erb and Yeates.

The division, though, will make “as many batches as needed by the hospital and university.”

“This is an all-hands-on deck moment in our lifetime,” Erb said in a statement.

All 75 UI Pharmaceuticals employees who support manufacturing, testing and quality control activities are helping “support our clients in their COVID-19 response activities.”

That includes the special request from UIHC and collaboration with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority — part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response.

That authority has reached out to UI Pharmaceuticals to discuss its manufacturing capacities of a potential COVID-19 vaccine or treatment. The UI division, the only one of its kind in the nation, is an FDA-registered contract development and manufacturing organization that supports biotech organizations and researchers by making sterile and nonsterile dosage forms, such as tablets and capsules.

Biotech companies “with promising drugs” to treat acute respiratory distressed syndrome — a major cause of COVID-19-related deaths — have asked about UI Pharmaceuticals’ ability to accelerate clinical testing of their products.

“UIP is working seven days a week in collaboration with these companies to determine how it can accelerate the manufacture and testing of their products,” according to the college.

Erb and Yeates said most of the product their division makes supports clinical testing of novel treatments for disease.

“We have been contacted by several companies to manufacture clinical supplies of their compounds for use in the treatment of COVID-19,” they said in an email.

They declined to provide more details due to confidentiality mandates.

“These are unprecedented times,” Erb said in a statement. “The men and women at UI Pharmaceuticals will help in any way possible to support our health care professionals in their battle against the coronavirus.”

Comments: (319) 339-3158; vanessa.miller@thegazette.com

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Our most important Coronavirus coverage is free to the public.

If you believe local news is essential, especially during this crisis, please donate. Your contribution will support news resources to cover the impact of the pandemic on our local communities.

All donations are tax-deductible.