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Nephron Pharmaceuticals breaks ground with high expectations

By James T. Hammond
Published March 22, 2012

Lou Kennedy, co-owner and CEO of Nephron Pharmaceuticals, could barely contain her excitement today as she shoveled some dirt in a ceremonial groundbreaking for the company’s new drug manufacturing plant in Lexington County.

“We hope to bring more jobs than we committed to; we’ve had some news from the University of South Carolina that might mean new products for our company; and that may require more buildings than we had planned,” she said to several hundred people attending the event Thursday in Saxe Gotha Industrial Park.

Nephron groundbreaking
Nephron Pharmaceuticals held a ceremonial groundbreaking event Thursday at the company’s new drug manufacturing plant in Lexington County.  (Photo/James T. Hammond)

Meanwhile, in the background, a fleet of heavy machinery created a cacophony of sound and motion, knocking down trees, moving debris about and grinding it into yard mulch.

Bill Kennedy, Lou’s spouse and co-owner of Nephron, echoed his wife’s sentiments.

“This building will be built rapidly and we will be hiring shortly,” he said.

Nephron is building a $313 million pharmaceutical plant, including research and development facilities, on a 60-acre parcel in Lexington County, south of Interstate 77 near Cayce.

The Kennedys, both native South Carolinians and University of South Carolina graduates, announced plans Oct. 28 to construct a manufacturing facility that they predicted at the time would employ 707 people.

“We feel like we are home here,” said Bill Kennedy, who is from the Upstate. Lou Kennedy is a Lexington County native.

But coming to South Carolina to build their second plant — the first is in Florida — was a business decision, not a sentimental one, according to the pair.

Lou Kennedy said discussions with faculty at the South Carolina School of Pharmacy, and with Innovista Director Don Herriott, have produced connections that could result in new products for the company.

The Kennedys gave USC $30 million for a pharmacy research center before they made the decision to locate their new plant here.

“This plant will be built for more research and development than we have in Orlando,” Bill Kennedy said. “We feel like we can attract other companies and partners here.”

Lou Kennedy said they are already talking with Clemson University, with the expanded USC School of Medicine in Greenville, and other South Carolina institutions about additional research partnerships.

“We want to help alleviate shortages in the generic drug field,” Bill Kennedy said. He said the company is developing three new drug products for ophthalmology, expanding their product range from their traditional specialty in respiratory medications.

He said the plant should be turning out products in about two and a half years, about the shortest period that can be expected including construction, outfitting the plant and winning FDA approvals to start operations.

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