College of Pharmacy’s unique service division provides vital resource for health care colleagues on campus
Friday, March 27, 2020
UI Pharmaceuticals making hand sanitizer
The UI Pharmaceuticals team quickly developed a method to safely make an 80% alcohol mixture in its existing Good Manufacturing Practice suite. Photo courtesy of the UI College of Pharmacy.

University of Iowa Pharmaceuticals (UIP) is doing its part to help during the COVID-19 crisis. UIP is a unique service division within the College of Pharmacy—the only such one in the nation—that develops, manufactures, and performs analytical testing on medicinal drugs. Its clients include small biotech and large pharmaceutical companies, university researchers, and governmental laboratories. UIP produces both nonsterile products such as capsules and tablets, and sterile products such as injectables.

As a response to the COVID-19 crisis, UIP recently began making hand sanitizer. The majority of the sanitizer will be acquired by University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics. Early in the national response to COVID-19, College of Pharmacy Dean Don Letendre raised the possibility of UIP manufacturing hand sanitizer, and a request by UI Hospitals & Clinics to help support its needs during the current pandemic shortly followed. The UIP team quickly developed a method to safely make an 80% alcohol mixture in its existing Good Manufacturing Practice suite.

UIP is able to make a maximum of 95 liters of sanitizer per batch. Each batch takes approximately four hours to make and bottle. UIP will manufacture “as many batches as needed by the hospital and university,” said Dennis Erb, executive director for UIP. “This is an all hands on deck moment in our lifetime.”

In addition, 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, has reached out to UIP to discuss its manufacturing capability for a potential vaccine or treatment for COVID-19. Several biotech companies with promising drugs to treat Acute Respiratory Distressed Syndrome, a major cause of COVID-19 related deaths, have also inquired about priority manufacture 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.

“These are unprecedented times,” says Dennis Erb, UIP executive director. “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—we have offered our services in whatever way we can to help fight the pandemic. It's the right thing to do.”