US Funds Kodak’s New Pharma Arm

31.07.2020 - Former photography giant Eastman Kodak is moving into the manufacture of pharmaceutical ingredients, supported by a $765 million government loan awarded by the administration of US president Donald Trump under the Defense Production Act (DPA).

The loan via the US International Development Finance Corp (DFC) is the first that the DPA program has awarded. Peter Navarro, assistant to the president and director of the Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy, said the deal is a “huge step forward toward American pharmaceutical independence,” describing the US as “dangerously dependent” on foreign supply chains for its essential medicines.

While Americans consume about 40% of the world’s supply of bulk components used to produce generic drugs, only 10% is made is the US, which has, like many other countries around the world, become increasingly reliant on imports from China.

“By leveraging our vast infrastructure, deep expertise in chemicals manufacturing, and heritage of innovation and quality, Kodak will play a critical role in the return of a reliable American pharmaceutical supply chain,” said the company’s executive chairman, Jim Continenza.

The funds will help Kodak – which filed for bankruptcy in 2012 – to repurpose and expand its existing facilities in Rochester, New York, and St. Paul, Minnesota, to make pharmaceutical components that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has identified as essential but in chronic short supply.

Once fully operational, Kodak Pharmaceuticals will have capacity to produce up to 25% of APIs used in non-biologic, non-antibacterial and generic drugs. Continenza told the Wall Street Journal that API production will eventually account for 30-40% of Kodak’s business.

US commentators have suggested that Trump could order Kodak to produce the API for the generic malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, as the president and several of his surrogates have been beating the drum again recently for the treatment that as yet has not shown efficacy in treating the disease.

As for maverick French doctor Didier Raoult earlier, Trump has also expressed admiration for African-born American doctor Stella Emmanuel, who claims she has cured 350 Covid-19 patients with the malaria drug without a single death.

Kodak has previously stepped into pharmaceuticals, notably in 1988 when it paid about $5.1 billion to buy Sterling Drug (later known as  Sterling Winthrop), which it subsequently sold in 1994.

The erstwhile photography group is also following in the steps of Japanese rival Fujifilm, which has transformed itself in past years into a major producer of both pharmaceuticals and medical equipment, such as diagnostic imaging. The Tokyo-headquartered group is currently developing its influenza antiviral drug Avigan for treating patients with Covid-19.