UAMS Opens Arkansas’ First Lab for Drug Trials

By todd

LITTLE ROCK – A new laboratory specially designed for making drugs used in clinical trials was the setting today for an open house at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) BioVentures building.


Called the Entergy Life Sciences Laboratory, the 1,760-square-foot facility is unique to Arkansas and was made possible by an Entergy Arkansas donation of $500,000.


“Thanks to the Entergy Charitable Foundation’s contribution in 2002, UAMS BioVentures can provide the facilities necessary to take our drug researchers’ discoveries another big step toward the marketplace without leaving our campus,” said Michael Douglas, Ph.D., director of BioVentures. “This lab gives UAMS a facility that can produce human therapeutic vaccines and biopharmaceutical products for clinical research studies and that are expected to be core products of several UAMS start-up companies.” 


UAMS College of Medicine Dean Debra H. Fiser, M.D., said the lab is an important addition to the institution’s research mission.


“Bringing this lab space into production became a priority for the College of Medicine when I became dean last year,” Fiser said. “A lab of this caliber will bolster UAMS’ position as a leading research institution and help us compete for limited federal research dollars.”


Hugh McDonald, Entergy Arkansas’ president and CEO, said BioVentures has shown in its 10-year history that, in addition to helping its scientists market their discoveries, it now plays an important role in advancing Arkansas’ economy.


“We are especially proud to have our name associated with this lab, which will develop medicines that benefit the world,” McDonald said. “In the process, this lab will help UAMS BioVentures contribute to a knowledge-based economy that will benefit Arkansans.” 


The lab is the only one in Arkansas designed to meet federal Good Manufacturing Practices requirements, which call for extraordinary measures to prevent contamination of the pharmaceuticals produced inside. Those measures include specially designed floors, walls and ceilings and a host of air controls, from temperature and humidity to air pressure, air flow and cleanliness.


The lab features a main room outside three lab production suites. The main room contains a minus-80 (degrees Celsius, minus 112 F) freezer, two liquid-nitrogen storage tanks (minus 321 F), a cell incubator, an explosion-proof refrigerator and a general laboratory refrigerator.


“You will find these pieces of equipment in other facilities in Arkansas, but none have such an extensive level of monitoring and documentation to ensure the quality of the products that come from this lab,” said Larry Parker, quality control specialist in the UAMS Research Support Center. “That is what is truly unique and special about a Good Manufacturing Practices lab.”


The lab’s features include:

·        A separate ventilation system from the BioVentures building.

·        HEPA filtration to reduce air particles to within federal and international guidelines.

·        Elevated air pressure in the sealed lab that causes air flow out of the room.

·        An air replacement rate of 12 times per hour, more than double the average office.

·        Three stages of entry, with rooms for dressing in sanitary garb, hand-washing and other preparations, including stepping on a tacky surface to remove dust.

·        Coved corners for easy cleaning, sealed, nonabsorbent surfaces throughout, and a floor that will withstand a liquid nitrogen tank leak.

·        Ventilation grills in the ceilings of each of the three production suites that rotate the air supply to the floor and back to an exhaust vent in the ceiling to ensure uniform air quality.


UAMS BioVentures was formed a decade ago to help UAMS researchers get their discoveries into the marketplace, whether through licensing agreements or forming start-up companies. In addition to assisting with licensing of UAMS intellectual property, BioVentures has helped numerous start-up companies turn their UAMS-generated products and services into profitable businesses. Its efforts have led to the establishment of companies providing 316 high-skilled jobs, a $15.7 million annual payroll and salaries that average $49,638 a year.


UAMS BioVentures is housed in a 17,000-square-foot facility designed to provide office and lab space for up to 12 new companies.   


UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with five colleges, a graduate school, a medical center, six centers of excellence and a statewide network of regional centers. UAMS has about 2,435 students and 715 medical residents. It is one of the state’s largest public employers with about 9,400 employees, including nearly 1,000 physicians who provide medical care to patients at UAMS, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the VA Medical Center and UAMS’ Area Health Education Centers throughout the state. UAMS and its affiliates have an economic impact in Arkansas of $5 billion a year. For more information, visit