UI Pharmaceuticals hires new managing director to usher in growth and expansion

University of Iowa Pharmaceuticals, a division within the College of Pharmacy, recently hired a new managing director to grow and expand the department.


Megan Conroy

The College of Pharmacy can be seen on March 5, 2019. The College of Pharmacy has come out with a new combined Health Informatics and Pharm D degree program.

Kelsey Harrell, News Reporter

Embedded within the College of Pharmacy, the University of Iowa Pharmaceuticals division is over a dozen years old, and yet many people on campus still do not know the program exists. The department is “the best kept secret on campus,” according to college dean Donald Letendre.

In an effort to usher in a period of growth and expansion, UI Pharmaceuticals recently hired Dennis Erb as its new managing director.

The division is a contract development and manufacturing organization that creates and tests materials for startup companies and researchers.

Erb received his doctorate at the UI and was previously a member of the College of Pharmacy Dean’s executive board. Erb said he was drawn to the managing director position because of its manufacturing, technical side, and its business side.

Erb assumed his role as managing director in July and said he has since been figuring out the business side of the division while discovering ways to run it more efficiently and effectively.

The division will also move into the new College of Pharmacy building soon and make updates to state-of-the-art technology, Erb said. This move created the potential for growth within the division, he added.

“The growth isn’t just volume, but … ‘What else could UI Pharmaceuticals do to help the university, help patients based on the capabilities that we have?’” Erb said. “So, I’m starting to look at [the division’s growth] from a strategic standpoint.”

There have also been conversations about creating a certificate course or workshop for students to teach good manufacturing practices in the workforce, Erb said.

The division gives students in the College of Pharmacy the opportunity to understand what factors into manufacturing the product and meeting it the standards required of it, Erb said.

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UI Pharmaceuticals has changed in the type of compounds they create from small molecule-based compounds to peptides, most recently making the switch to protein-based compounds, said Randall Yeates, UI Pharmaceuticals director of business development.

The division is also consistently updating its system quality to comply with new Federal Drug Administration regulations, he said, as UI Pharmaceuticals continues to grow.

The department is also looking at expanding the number of management positions available to better service its customers, Yeates said. The UI Pharmaceuticals teams also plans to explore ways they can grow in areas they usually do not focus upon and broaden the scope of their work, Yeates added.

UI Pharmaceuticals is integrated within the college to give students the opportunity to train and receive education and complement the drug discovery research the college does, Letendre said. Such training allows people to be trained as FDA inspectors, he added.

“Dennis is charged succinctly to not only grow UI Pharmaceuticals as it is right now to enhance revenues and further augment our education and research missions, but also to diversify the business platform into other areas,” Letendre said.

Letendre said Erb’s vision for the division aligns with his own. The pair want to encourage the training and education of students, not just produce critical supply-chain products, he added.

“Even after the very short time we’ve worked with Dennis so far, clearly, he has an expanded vision for [UI Pharmaceuticals], and I expect us to grow significantly in the coming years,” Yeates said.