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story.lead_photo.caption Officials including Gov. Asa Hutchinson stand at the future site of the OurPharma pharmaceuticals manufacturing facility Monday in Fayetteville. - Photo by J.T. Wampler

A drug manufacturing company called OurPharma will open in Fayetteville, officials announced Monday afternoon at groundbreaking for its new facility on South City Lake Road.

The company is starting off with about a dozen employees, but Chief Executive Officer Dr. Peter Kohler forecasts growth to about 100 jobs over the next five years as the business grows. OurPharma staff will also conduct research with the department of biomedical engineering at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.

All of the company's production requires special clothing, sterilized hoods and ventilation in rooms closely monitored for air particles that could potentially contaminate the medicines. A mixture of licensed pharmacists and pharmacy technicians is needed.

"We have a lot of pharmacists who are here [in Fayetteville]," Kohler said. "The technicians need to be trained. We think we can work with some underemployed groups to train them to do this."

OurPharma will make generic medicines and compound others. Drug compounding is the process of mixing medicine based on a patient's need. Say a patient needs a specific compound within a medicine, but is allergic to another -- pharmaceutical specialists mix new medicines that are not available on the market as the patient needs them.

Kohler, a former vice chancellor of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences northwest campus, aims to sell generic versions of medicines to customers across the nation. Though he did not specify which brands, he said in general there are too many medicines on the market that are out of reach for uninsured consumers. Eventually, the company will manufacture insulin, too.

When asked which markets in particular would be reached, he named Oklahoma as an early target. Kohler told reporters the company is funded by investors.

First, the company plans to construct a 10,000-square-foot building on the property. That's expected to expand as the company grows, Kohler has said. Because of Food and Drug Administration and Arkansas State Pharmacy Board regulations, the facility will have to be temperature and humidity controlled. Docking for deliveries and shipments is also needed.

Construction is to begin in early 2018, and will take about 10 months to complete, officials said. Several weeks after that will consist of rounds of testing before any products are available.

OurPharma has the support of the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce. Chamber CEO and President Steve Clark wrote to the mayor this past spring, saying the company's hiring goals are in line with Fayetteville's agenda to attract workers in technological and innovative fields.

Kohler purchased 15 acres from the city, which has owned the vacant space in the Commerce Park since 1991. It cost Kohler $223,000, about $75,000 less than was advertised to the market. According to city documents, the City Council approved the same discounted price for a company shopping for a new corporate headquarters in Fayetteville in 2013.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson and U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark., attended the groundbreaking to applaud Kohler and city officials for reaching a deal to build the company in Fayetteville, and for creating what they called "high quality" jobs. Kohler said Oregon, his home state, and Texas were also considered as potential locations for the OurPharma plant.

"Thank you very much for taking a risk here," the governor told Kohler.

Photo by J.T. Wampler
Dr. Peter Kohler (right) visits with U.S. Rep. Steve Womack on Monday. Officials broke ground on OurPharma, a drug manufacturing facility set for construction next year in Fayetteville.
Photo by J.T. Wampler
Dr. Peter Kohler speaks Monday before a groundbreaking ceremony in Fayetteville. Officials broke ground on OurPharma, a drug manufacturing facility set for construction next year in Fayetteville. Kohler is the CEO of OurPharma.

Business on 11/28/2017

Print Headline: Fayetteville lands Rx-firm startup; OurPharma expects to hire 100 workers in next 5 years

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