B. Frank Gupton, Ph.D., the Floyd D. Gottwald Jr. Chair in Pharmaceutical Engineering and director of the catalysis lab at Virginia Commonwealth University.
B. Frank Gupton, Ph.D., the Floyd D. Gottwald Jr. Chair in Pharmaceutical Engineering and director of the catalysis lab at Virginia Commonwealth University.

VCU collaboration with industry, universities, receives Virginia Catalyst grant

BrightSpec, a life science instrumentation company based in Charlottesville, Virginia, and B. Frank Gupton, Ph.D., the Floyd D. Gottwald Jr. Chair in Pharmaceutical Engineering and director of the catalysis lab at Virginia Commonwealth University, have received a grant from Virginia Catalyst for a project to use a new technology for pharmaceutical development processes.

The $400,000 grant will be matched by the same amount from the company to use high-resolution spectroscopy called Molecular Rotational Resonance (MRR) for rapid drug development. University of Virginia and Virginia Tech are also collaborating on the project.

Gupton, who serves on the company’s scientific advisory board, said BrightSpec has developed an innovative analytical method “that can be done in real time. We’re working with them on some of the products that we produce from our catalysis reactions to see how we can apply their analytical methods to the processes that we’re developing.” Gupton is also chair of the Department of Chemical and Life Science Engineering at VCU College of Engineering.

Robert W. Lloyd, chief executive officer of BrightSpec, which was co-founded by UVA alumni, credited the collaboration and previous grants from Virginia Catalyst for achieving breakthroughs. “The current award extends that work into new synthetic routes for small drug molecule [active pharmaceutical ingredients, or] APIs,” he said in a statement.

In 2018, the company and universities received a Virginia Catalyst grant for a novel anti-inflammatory drug for the treatment of traumatic brain injury. Gupton, BrightSpec and UVA received their first Virginia Catalyst grant together in 2015 for pharmaceutical engineering.

BrightSpec and UVA have also previously worked with VCU’s Medicines for All Institute, which Gupton co-founded and directs, to test MRR for analyzing innovative drug manufacturing processes.

The Virginia Catalyst, formerly known as the Virginia Biosciences Health Research Corporation (VBHRC) has awarded a total of 31 grants of more than $15.9 million for collaborative projects between industry and Virginia research universities. Mike Grisham, chief executive officer of Virginia Catalyst, said, “The critical mass achieved by these collaborations provides Virginia with competitive advantages over other states and has resulted in significant outside capital being invested in Virginia to finance the commercialization of Virginia’s innovations, while creating high-paying jobs for the [state].”

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