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Joy Polefrone named leader of Richmond-Petersburg drug manufacturing alliance

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Temperatures over the next week will be more typical of January.

Joy Polefrone has been named the first permanent executive director of the Alliance for Building Better Medicine, a coalition of public and private entities in Richmond and Petersburg tasked with manufacturing essential drugs at affordable prices.

Polefrone was previously director of health innovations at the Virginia Commonwealth University’s da Vinci Center, where she worked to overcome pandemic-related barriers at the health system. In one project, she helped develop a program for sterilizing masks and other supplies using ultraviolet light.

A native of Virginia Beach, Polefrone earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry at James Madison University and a doctorate in chemistry at the University of Virginia. She led initiatives for the Dutch corporation Philips in Finland, Boston and Seattle.

At the Alliance, she will head the effort for determining the coalition’s strategy and mission, she said. She’ll also be responsible for building funds. Her first day was Monday.

Jeff Gallagher, who came out of retirement to serve as interim executive director, will step down from his temporary post.

“Joy Polefrone brings a unique and extraordinary collection of skill and experiences to this great opportunity for the region and nation — science, industry, innovation, collaboration and a passion for this region,” Gallagher said.

The Alliance, which began in 2020, includes VCU’s Medicines For All, drug manufacturers Civica and Phlow, and AMPAC Fine Chemicals, which produces building blocks for drugs.

Medicines For All strives to make medicines at lower costs than currently available. Civica plans to distribute insulin at a price 80% below the current retail cost. Phlow won a federal contract to build a national stockpile of medicines.

“I can’t believe all these pieces came together so beautifully,” Polefrone said.

The initiatives expect to bring hundreds of jobs to Petersburg and Richmond.

The Alliance has received a $2.5 million grant from GO Virginia, $52 million from the federal government’s Build Back Better Regional Challenge, $14 million from local private donors and $45 million from the state budget.

Civica expects to open a manufacturing site in Petersburg next month.

(804) 649-6109

Twitter: @EricKolenich



Eric Kolenich writes about higher education, health systems and more for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. He joined the newspaper in 2009 and spent 11 years in the Sports section. (804) 649-6109

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