Pharmacy students at East Tennessee State University will now have the chance to learn real-world drug research through a partnership with local pharmaceutical company BioCorp.
The announcement was made Tuesday during the regional economic summit held at the Millennium Centre that BioCorp, a private, start-up will lease space in ETSU’s Valleybrook Campus facility located in Sullivan County near Eastern Star Road. The facility there was a gift to the university from Eastman Chemical Co. in summer 2010.
The firm spent the weekend moving offices to the facility. Currently there are two offices and one lab the company is utilizing. The company has existing offices in Virginia, and chose Valleybrook to expand into Tennessee. Its long-term plan is to acquire more office space and staff at the campus.
“One of the reasons that BioCorp is coming here is because we have a pharmacy school and a medical school,” said Wilsie Bishop, ETSU vice president for health affairs and university CEO. “Some of their scientists will have adjunct appointments in our College of Pharmacy.”
BioCorp will pay a lease that will basically cover the school’s costs.
“The benefit we get from it is in the education and the research,” Bishop said. “We’re not seeking commercial industry to fill Valleybrook. What we’re doing though is looking for opportunities that we can have our research and educational programs together.”
Bishop said it is likely the other labs at Valleybrook will be used because BioCorp is there.
Sociologists are at Valleybrook, as are professors in geosciences, who have brought some of the specimens from Gray Fossil Site. Public health also is developing training opportunities there and the art department has some studios at the site.
Eric M. Latham, CEO of BioCorp, said the company is a family business and employs four people. BioCorp has a pipeline of 38 new drugs that treat 10 main areas of disease, including drugs for Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, breast cancer and hypothyroidism.
“So we’re really trying to tackle some really big health issues,” Latham said. “The key to what we do is not to paste over symptoms like many pharmaceutical companies do with their drugs. Many of these drugs are designed to have curative qualities.”
Latham said the establishment of BioCorp at ETSU is a result of pharmacy students’ requests for education on drug research.
“We wanted to set this up initially to try to help students in pharmacy school,” he said. “We actually do manufacturing and formulation of tablets and pharmaceutical products. And the pharmacy students have come to us and said, ‘We’d like to learn to do those things.’ ”
ETSU Pharmacy Dean Larry Calhoun said these kinds of partnerships are common for pharmacy schools. He said there were two really good opportunities for collaboration with BioCorp.
“There are things that BioCorp may be working on in drug discovery where they can work with our faculty,” Calhoun said. “But probably more important than that, it gives our students an opportunity to get some education in a research environment that’s in the private sector. We’re very fortunate to have researchers that take our students in and teach them the basics of research. And now we’ve got this marriage between the private sector and the academic environment. Our students will be able to get some good experience there.”