Impressive work by the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy and the National Center for Natural Products Research (NCNPR) inspired a pharmaceutical company to make a major gift.
Clark Levi, owner of Phlight Pharma of Ocean Springs, Mississippi, and Marc Fluitt, head of Strategic Initiatives, presented a $200,000 gift to the university, half of which will be used at the pharmacy dean’s discretion; the other half is designated to help discover medicinal properties in plants.
Neither executive has direct ties to Ole Miss but both are familiar with the caliber of students the pharmacy school produces and with the quality of research being conducted by scientists within the NCNPR on the university’s Oxford, Mississippi, campus.
“We were impressed by the international expertise the center has regarding natural products,” Levi said. “We have a dream that we can find a natural product that ultimately can be grown, processed and distributed as a prescription product — all within the state of Mississippi.”
Additionally, the company wants to help bolster education for pharmacy students.
“Phlight Pharma, being a pharmaceutical company based in the state, aligns well with the School of Pharmacy. We share mutual goals of supporting professional students’ and post-graduates’ entrepreneurial, professional and new-product development interests,” Fluitt said.
“We ultimately hope our gift will help create new jobs in the state’s healthcare sector for highly skilled and educated professionals and, in turn, generate strong economic development within Mississippi.”
Created in 2016, Phlight Pharma markets a prescription product, Allzital, for tension headaches, and Synerderm, a medical device designed to help relieve the discomfort of various skin diseases. The company also has affiliated organizations owned or co-owned by Levi, including Larken Laboratories, a nationwide distributor of generic products, and Alvix laboratories, which repackages pharmaceutical products for specialty pharmacists throughout the nation.
“Phlight Pharma’s research and development team works to ensure that we stay on the cutting edge of the pharmaceutical industry. We are continuously searching the world’s market to develop new medications that will help patients in need,” Levi said. “We also continually seek joint ventures with others to bring new products into the U.S. market.”
The NCNPR at Ole Miss conducts basic and applied multidisciplinary research to discover and develop natural products for use as pharmaceuticals, dietary supplements and agrochemicals, and to understand the biological and chemical properties of medicinal plants.
Building on a strong foundation and history of excellence in natural products research within the Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences in the School of Pharmacy, NCNPR programs involve the faculty of the departments of biomolecular sciences, pharmaceutics and drug delivery, pharmacy administration and pharmacy practice.
“The NCNPR is the nation’s only university-affiliated research center devoted to improving human health and agricultural productivity through the discovery, development and commercialization of pharmaceuticals and agrochemicals derived from natural products,” said Ikhlas Khan, the center’s director.
Pharmacy Dean David D. Allen is pleased to know that the NCNPR’s reputation precedes it.
“It’s validating to know that our work here is being recognized throughout the state as worthy of such generous support from companies like Phlight Pharma,” Allen said. “On behalf of the School of Pharmacy and the NCNPR, I am extremely grateful to Clark and Marc for their keen interest in our programs.”
By Bill Dabney