WEST COLUMBIA, S.C.—Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corp. has continued to step up in the battle against the COVID-19 virus in the U.S. It's a campaign the company has been building on since before the pandemic began spreading across the country in 2020.
During the last year alone, the company has invested heavily to finish or nearly complete several additions aimed at combating the virus.
Nephron Pharmaceuticals' latest expansion project is the launch of a new business called Nephron Nitrile, a medical-grade nitrile glove manufacturing operation that will occupy 400,000 square feet in the Kennedy Innovation Complex now being built by the company on its campus in West Columbia, where Nephron Pharmaceuticals is headquartered.
About $100 million is being invested in the new nitrile glove facility by the firm. Approximately 250 new jobs are expected to be created by the new business, CEO Lou Kennedy said in a recent interview.
She said construction of the plant will be complete in early 2022, and it will begin producing medical-grade nitrile gloves at that time. The company plans to manufacture 3 billion gloves a year.
"We already are talking to three different suppliers about contracts to distribute the gloves," she said. "You go big, or go home."
The firm also has secured partnerships with companies to provide raw materials, machinery and technology to help move the project along.
"It's all being done on American soil," according to Kennedy.
Nephron Pharmaceuticals' new facility will be the fifth construction project the company has completed since last June, she said.
"We'll have 1.5 million square feet under one roof for all our companies," she said.
The firm—which relocated to West Columbia from Orlando, Fla., in 2014—is investing an estimated $315 million in the new projects. Those additions will create about 380 new full-time jobs to the area and bring the total investment by the firm in Lexington County, where West Columbia is located, to more than $500 million.
Among Nephron Pharmaceuticals' latest additions is a CLIA-certified laboratory that tests people for COVID-19 and administers vaccinations. In addition, new office and warehouse space was added after the lab was in place.
A developer and producer of generic inhalation and suspension products, the company also operates an outsourcing division, which produces pre-filled sterile syringes, luer-lock vials, IV bottles and IV bags for hospitals across the U.S. in an effort to alleviate drug shortage needs.
During a ceremony conducted in mid-July, Kennedy, along with South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, announced the launch of Nephron Nitrile.
At that time, Kennedy said during the last year "we have poured every bit of creativity, energy and resources we have at our disposal into doing our part, as a proud made-in-America manufacturer, to respond to an unprecedented crisis (the COVID-19 pandemic). Nephron Nitrile is the latest part of our ongoing effort to make South Carolina the nationwide example for effectively responding to America's needs, this time the shoring up of the domestic supply chain."
McMaster praised the company for creating a base for medical-grade nitrile glove manufacturing in the U.S., but particularly in South Carolina.
"It is critical that South Carolina lead the charge in bringing the production of life-saving medications and supplies back home to the United States. After last year's supply chain disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, I announced a new initiative aimed at expanding recruitment efforts of pharmaceutical and medical supply manufacturers in the Palmetto State.
"Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corp.'s continued investment in South Carolina and our people will go a long way toward creating much needed independence in this industry."
Kennedy, McMaster and the entire Nephron team have made reducing America's dependence on foreign sources of critical health care-related products, including personal protection equipment and medications, a top priority for Nephron Pharmaceuticals, the firm said in a statement.
"Last summer we began investing in plants to deal with COVID-19," Kennedy said. "And we developed new drugs to deal with COVID-19. I am passionate about offering healthy, U.S-made solutions to the virus. So we set out to deal with combating this. We want to be part of the solution."
She noted that before the virus began spreading in the U.S., she met with then-President Trump and Vice President Pence, telling them the U.S. was too dependent on China and other Asian countries for its supply of medical goods.
Kennedy said she told them her company was prepared to roll out new medications and other personal protection products, all made in the U.S., to safely combat a potential problem. They told her they fully supported Nephron Pharmaceuticals' efforts, she said.
That problem turned out to be the COVID-19 virus.
"I've long believed critical product needs—especially those critical in the health care sector—must be filled by companies in America," she said. "Otherwise, the country is at a serious disadvantage."